Category Archives: Food & Fitness

Does McDonald’s STRAW reinvention pass the test? Find out!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone! In case you’ve been living under a shamrock and didn’t hear, McDonald’s has reinvented the way guests drink their seasonal favorite McCafe beverage, the Chocolate Shamrock Shake. This ‘utterly frivolous’ reinvention is by way of a J-shaped STRAW, the Suction Tube Reverse Axial Withdrawl which provides optimal flavor flow dynamics.

While all these big words sound really cool, combined with the fact that McDonald’s partnered with two very real engineering labs on both coasts – San Francisco based JACE Design and NK Labs, LLC from Cambridge, Massachusetts – to deliver the ideal flavor ratio of 50% chocolate and 50% mint in each sip, does the STRAW actually work? The nerd in me needed to answer this question… for SCIENCE!

The Chocolate Shamrock Milkshake! (Mayor McCheese approved.)

I’ve never tried a Shamrock Shake of any kind before, let alone a chocolate one. (Full disclosure: I’m not a fan of chocolate.) Before this experiment, I only knew two things about the Shamrock Shake; 1) From what I’ve heard, it’s kind of like the McDonald’s beverage equivalent of the McRib; rare, seasonal and delicious. 2) McDonald’s donates money from every Shamrock Shake purchase to the Ronald McDonald House Charities, and have done since 1974 (that’s when the first Ronald McDonald House opened).

I won a… STRAW?

Even more limited than their Big Mac secret sauce giveaway in January, McDonald’s had only 2,000 STRAWs produced and distributed for the current Shamrock Shake season. Of this limited run, only 10 were given away here in Central Florida by random Twitter drawing. By some intergalactic act of luck, my tweet was chosen and I was sent a STRAW device!

McDonald’s Central Florida also sent me a coupon for a free small Chocolate Shamrock Shake which, for the purposes of this experiment, I upgraded myself to a large to make this STRAW test interesting. Time to get down to business…

Test  #1: Traditional, old school McDonald’s straw

This old school straw only looks sweet and innocent…

I’ll bet I can guess what you remember the most about drinking a McDonald’s milkshake, and it’s probably the same memory as mine. All the way back to elementary school I can remember trying to drink a McDonald’s milkshake, and by trying I mean creating an unsuccessful, cheek pinched vacuum between your mouth, the straw, and the milkshake.

In vain I tried to suck even the tiniest bit of milkshake through the traditional straw seen above to no avail! Was it gravity? Was it too cold? I don’t know but NOTHING worked outside of a spoon or letting the shake melt a little before attempting to drink. Their shakes were so thick! Oh, and spoons were/are for weenies.

Jen vs Traditional McDonald’s straw

Calling upon these childhood memories whilst unwrapping said traditional straw, I treaded lightly sipping carefully as to not look like this before getting to Test #2. Call it cheek preservation.

Result: Drinking through a traditional straw not as challenging as I remember it once being, but thickness was a still a bit of a challenge when sipping. On to the STRAW…

Test #2: Re-engineered McDonald’s STRAW device

By the way, I call it a ‘device’ because it sounds fancy. The STRAW is made of a stronger, grey plastic than its traditional counterpart. One problem I immediately noticed: Would the STRAW fit into the McCafe cup?

New STRAW vs Chocolate Shamrock Shake

Answer: YES! Through some small en’jen’eering of my own, I made it work! In truth, it really wasn’t difficult. I just pinched the ‘J’ and was good to go.

Because science.

There’s truth in the cheeks, folks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Results: So, how did the STRAW test? Surprisingly well! There really is something to this Suction Tube for Reverse Axial Withdrawl thing! Versus a traditional straw – and putting my cheeks through minty, slightly painful frustration – I could actually sip on my Shamrock Shake with the STRAW. Freshly made or not, it took ‘the work’ out of enjoying a thick shake!

 Top 5 Findings:

  • 1) What started out as ‘(ridiculous) revolutionary tech’ is actually quite handy!
  • 2) My cheeks are VERY thankful.
  • 3) Question: What happens when mix-ins are added? Do they conform to the space then clog the STRAW, fall out the bottom, or do they go up at all? Perhaps I’m overthinking this…
  • 4) My first ever Chocolate Shamrock Shake was enjoyable despite my dislike of chocolate in general. The 50/50 ratio worked for me. Not too chocolatey, no unexpected Altoids-like winter blast of mint.
  • 5) The STRAW was also surprisingly easy to clean! I wasn’t sure with all that whipped cream in play.

So, how can you find a STRAW of your own and give this chocominty experiment a try at your local McDonald’s? I don’t know. (Honest answer.) What I do know is you can get a Chocolate Shamrock Shake RIGHT NOW, on St. Patrick’s Day and beyond! And bonus! McDonald’s has three more mint and chocolate flavored McCafé beverages you can try for a limited time:

  • – Chocolate Shamrock Shake: Vanilla soft serve and chocolate flavored syrup under the original mint flavored Shamrock Shake. Top it off with green sprinkles, whipped topping, and a cherry and it’s a match made in Shamrock heaven.
  • – Shamrock Chocolate Chip Frappé: Made with an indulgent blend of chocolate chips and a hint of coffee, topped with green sprinkles, whipped topping, and tantalizing chocolaty drizzle.
  • – Shamrock Mocha: McDonald’s classic Hot Mocha just got minty. Made with sustainably sourced espresso beans from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms, steamed whole or nonfat milk, mint and mocha flavored syrup, and topped with whipped topping and delicious chocolaty drizzle.
  • – Shamrock Hot Chocolate: McDonald’s delicious Hot Chocolate now with cool mint flavor. Made with steamed whole or nonfat milk, mint and mocha flavored syrup, and topped with whipped topping and chocolaty drizzle.

A big thanks to McDonald’s and McDonald’s Central Florida for sending me a STRAW & shake, and humoring me with this goofy post… for SCIENCE!

Last-Minute Thanksgiving Dining

You were busy. There were theme parks to visit. The stores were just “too” crowded. And you didn’t “really” want to cook. What’s a procrastinating food-loving Central-Floridian (or visitor away from the kitchen) to do? Here are some delicious restaurant options that will ensure a full belly (even if you have an empty ’fridge).

The Alfond Inn

Brunch is served at The Alfond Inn. A Chef-inspired Thanksgiving Buffet in their beautiful Conservatory and Park Avenue Ballroom awaits, but only at the noon seating (3p is sold out). Some of my favorites will be served including Hamilton’s Duet of Beet’s salad, Maple-Bacon Brussel Sprouts, and Shrimp and Grits. Of course you can expect all the traditional courses, but who wouldn’t want a few extras to fill up the plate(s)! Leave room for dessert because there will be pies aplenty and a gelato station. Fantastico!
Adults: $69+ Children 4-12 $25+ and reservations (required) can be made by calling 407.998.8090 or through this link.

American Kitchen at B Resort

It’ll be hard to decide which option to pick at American Kitchen: Herb Roasted Organic Turkey or Smoked Grass-Fed Sirloin, but guests can flip a coin for a choice that will be tasty either way. To accompany the main will be Mashed Potatoes with Rosemary Gravy, Sage Stuffing, Candied Yams, Brown Butter Haricot Verts and Parker House Rolls plus a chef-created seasonal dessert. Served from 5 p to close, at $26 per adult and $10 per child (both subject to service charge and tax), this dinner is affordable yet impressive. Don’t forget to get your parking validated.

Rosen Shingle Creek

If you wanted to join the bountiful buffet at Cafe Osceola, it’s sadly too all booked up at this stage in the game. You’ve still got options for dining at A Land Remembered or Cala Bella: two of my personal favorites. Click here for more info. As of this writing they had reservations available in both restaurants from around 6p to as late as 9:45.

Westgate River Ranch and Rodeo

Ham, turkey, prime rib and more await at Westgate River Ranch for Thanksgiving. The buffet starts at 5 and there are limited spots available. Call 863-692-1321 x 40017 today (Thanksgiving eve) if you’d like in on the ranch-style feast. There’s no charge for parking and dinner’s just $34.95 for adults, $14.95 for children ages 5-12 and complimentary for kids 4 and younger. If you’re reading this on Thanksgiving day, call the main resort line for availability.

Swan and Dolphin Hotels

Bluezoo offers an a la carte menu in addition to a heritage turkey roulade;  Garden Grove offers a buffet with soups, a carving station with Apple Cider Glazed Smoked Ham and Roasted Turkey, plus an impressive hot station including Sweet Potato Gratin au Dauphinoise; Il Mulina offers Heritage Turkey Roulade, Sweet Potatoes, Cranberry, Chestnuts, Porcini Mushrooms, Frisee.  For all the deets, visit their website.

While hardly an exhaustive list, this gets you started if you haven’t… well… started!

Happy Thanksgiving from your friends at Central Florida Top 5. We’re thankful for you.

 

5 things you never knew about Sprinkles Bakery

Locals may be quick to confuse Sprinkles at Disney Springs, with Sprinkles Custom Cakes in Winter Park. Cake, er, make no mistake – they are quite different. One has been around the Central Florida area for 27 years and makes custom cakes, while the other opened as “the world’s first cupcake bakery” and sports a pink Cupcake ATM outside.

Yes, you read that right. CUPCAKE ATM. And it’s dangerous(ly delicious). Let’s discuss…

Photo Credit: Sprinkles Bakery

You have been warned, Central Florida. [Photo Credit: Sprinkles Bakery]

Eleven years ago Candace Nelson (seen by many as a judge on all 10 Cupcake Wars seasons) opened the first Sprinkles in Beverly Hills (that is), California. Celebrities love Sprinkles. Angelenos and their dogs love (gluten-free and sugar-free) Sprinkles. They’re “a thing” all over the United States and Canada thanks to their 20 locations, mobile Sprinklesmobile (the world’s first cupcake truck), and Williams-Sonoma where you can find their cupcake mixes for sale for worswhipping-at-home or late, late night cravings.

In 2012, something magical happened… the birth of the world’s FIRST Cupcake ATM. Some people think of the Cupcake ATM as its own entity – and it IS – but Sprinkles made it happen, and made it happen first! Candace explains how the Cupcake ATM works here.

Sprinkles NY

Words of warning from Sprinkles in New York City

Those already familiar with them already know that Sprinkles uses the finest ingredients with no preservatives, artificial flavors or trans fats. They’re also baked fresh daily, handcrafted to order and, come with a nifty care guide and labeled flavor rows (on the inside top of the box).

Among the offerings; cupcakes, mini cupcakes, cookies, ice cream, espresso, ice cream cookie sandwiches, the Sprinkles Sundae (imagine a full-on or mini cookie or brownie sundae in the middle of your cupcake!), milkshakes…

ProTip: Follow Sprinkles on Facebook and/or Twitter for secret menu hints! Oh, and do not refrigerate your cupcakes.

5 things to know about Sprinkles

1) GIRL POWER: Sprinkles was founded by a female entrepreneur, and is operated by 90% female managers. These ladies know their flavors. Ask ’em anything!

Sprinkles Assorted Tower

2) DIETARY FLEXIBILITY: Normally, when most venture to a bakery, the last thought on their minds is the word “diet.” Some of us do not have a choice when it comes to food allergies and sensitivities. After all – dogs are finicky eaters, and if you’ve ever answered the question “can I give my dog oranges” with a small test and a bunch of vomit on the carpet, you know it’s true. Sprinkles is aware of this and takes extraordinary care in making sure they bake up offerings to accommodate every palate, even slobbery ones. Here’s a head’s up for those who need to know:

*Gluten Free:  Red Velvet Cupcakes, Chocolate Chip Cookies
*Vegan:  Mango Sorbet, Red Velvet Cupcakes
*Sugar Free:  Red Velvet Cupcakes (for the dogs!)

Note: Dog friendly cupcakes are also available via the Cupcake ATM!

ProTip:  Sprinkles offers frosting shots. This is not a mirage… FROSTING. SHOTS. Buttercream, fudge, salted caramel… the world is your sweet, sweet oyster. Lick it up!

3) CHARITABLE HEART: Since opening in 2005, Sprinkles has donated over $7 million in cash and cupcakes to charitable organizations in local communities and around the world. Causes dear to their frosting filled hearts; fighting hunger, helping children and shining a light on women’s causes with a sweet emphasis on women’s cancer. They’ve partnered with the Girl Scouts, Citymeals-on-Wheels, Hunger Busters and other local community organizations and food banks around the country. Once they’re in the neighborhood, Sprinkles wants to get to know you and your neighbors, so drop by and introduce yourself!

Sprinkles also donates all leftovers each night to a local organization in need. Here in Central Florida, Sprinkles at Disney Springs have already committed to donating to A Grateful Mind, an Orlando 501c3 charitable organization which provides emergency crisis assistance and educational resources to homeless and impoverished men, women and children in Central Florida. A cupcake may not singlehandedly save the world, but it might bring a smile to the face of those are trying their best.

Sprinkles LV

Sprinkles high rollin’ at The Linq in Las Vegas

4) SPRINKLES PERKS & APP: [Android/iOS] Who carries cash these days – or cards? Pre-register at home for your own, free Sprinkles Perks account. Download the app and take your perks anywhere! Sign up for Sprinkles Perks free by clicking HERE! Speaking of high techie stuff, you can also email your favorite cupcake addict a Cupcake Card!

5) SPRINKLES IS UP FOR ANYTHING: Need custom messages, designs or decorations for your wedding, corporate event or other special occasion? Want to propose to your gal or guy via the Cupcake ATM? Want to reveal the gender of your baby to the family in the sweetest way possible? Interested in fundraising for your favorite local cause? Feeling like a red velvet waffle cone to go with your Red Velvet ice cream? Have an urge to sync your personal calendar up to Sprinkles’ flavor calendar? Bring it! Sprinkles welcomes the challenge.

 

Sprinkles Tower

The Lowdown on Sprinkles at Disney Springs (near Raglan Road):

Address: Disney Springs Town Center, 1676 Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista, Florida 32830

Phone Number: (407) 560-9192

Store Hours: 10am – 12am (daily)

Cupcake ATM: 8am – 2am (stocked daily, 400 cupcakes max)

Delivery availability? YES. Online and phone! (within 100 mile radius)

Welcome to Central Florida, Sprinkles!!

Top Five Orlando Food Galas

The Orlando food scene is thriving! Foodies have their pick of interesting flavors to sample, creative chefs to follow and outstanding venues in which to visit. A couple of food galas on the horizon combine the food and chef portions into one location. You can visit BobEvans.com for more information about foods. Here are my Top Five food events coming up soon where guests can sample a variety of delicious food and drink (and usually can support a great cause at the same time)!

1) Cattle Barons’ Ball (April 16 at Rosen Shingle Creek)

I had the chance of attending this great event last year and all I can say is Yeehaw! The Cattle Barrons and the American Cancer Society sure know how to put on a spread. Restaurants including Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, Emeril’s Tchoup Choup, Empress Sissy Bakery, The Whisky, Spencer’s For Steaks, and A Land Remembered at Shingle Creek are a tiny sampling of the HUGE great offerings this year.

curbside

Curbside Food Truck’s Asian Pork Slider

Some of my favorite dishes from last year included Yak & Yeti’s Korean braised short ribs over grits with kimchi slaw and the braised Asian short-ribs with “truck”-made pickled cucumbers with balsamic fig reduction from Curbside Food Truck. (Note: I have a thing for braised beef short-ribs AND huy fong sriracha. You, too?!)

Cattle Barons Ball is generously sponsored by: A.T.A.P Companies, Coca-Cola, Bags, Bright House Networks Business Solutions, Rosen Hotels & Resorts, Tavistock Foundation to name just a few. My mother is a breast cancer survivor, so this event is near and dear to my heart.

 

 

 

2) The Taste at I-Drive 360 (May 1)

Formerly held at Pointe Orlando, The Taste at I-Drive 360 has moved to usher in a round of new flavors and fun. This brand-new location will offer lots of new food choices to enjoy. Stroll around Orlando’s newest observation tower and neighboring attractions while nibbling on treats from: Sugar Factory, Tin Roof, Cowgirls, Shake Shack, Naru Sushi Bar, Paramount Fine Foods, Outback Steakhouse, Buffalo Wild Wings and Tapa Toro.

Taste at I-Drive 360
Since this is the inaugural event at this location, my recommendation is based on visiting just about every location in the line-up with special favorites the Mediterranean food from Paramount, Sweets, Treats and Eats from Sugar Factory, and Shake Shack’s burgers and (YUM) their cheese fries. While I’m not sure what they’re offering for The Taste at I-Drive, I’m confident that they, and all the participating restaurants, will do themselves proud.

Taste at I-Drive 360 benefits the Esophageal Cancer Program at Florida Hospital Cancer Institute. There are close to 17,000 diagnosis of Esophageal Cancer projected in 2016. If you have frequent reflux, talk to your doctor. Prevention is the key and there ARE steps you can take to prevent this disease. To learn more, visit www.floridahospital.com/esophageal-cancer.  Purchase advance tickets for $35 at www.TasteatIDrive360.com, $40 at the door day-of or Email Ayslinn.Husebo@FLHosp.org for ticket packages and sponsorships.

Insider tip: If you haven’t visited the attractions at I-Drive 360, this will be the perfect opportunity. Ticket holders for The Tast at I-Drive 360 can enjoy 25% off the attractions there all day!

 

3) Taste of the Nation (August 27 at Orlando World Center Marriott )

As a Social Media Ambassador to this incredible foodie fete, I can say wholeheartedly that visitors will enjoy tasting their way around exciting offerings from SO many restaurants, including ones from top resorts and travel destinations. From selections by Universal Orlando Resorts and Fulton’s Crab House at Disney Springs, to MOOR at Gaylord Palms Resort and Resort and Highball and Harvest at Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, the “tastes” are varied.

#OrlTaste #NoKidHungryDon’t forget: Wear comfortable shoes and pace yourself! You’ll need a plan of attack as there are “that” many places to try, not just food either. Beverage suppliers like Cooper’s Hawk Winery, Winter Park Distilling Company, Funky Buddha, and Quantum Leap ensure no one leaves (shall we say…) thirsty.

I was a hungry child in Orlando, so knowing this event supports Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida is another fine reason I support . Additional beneficiaries include the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida and Florida Impact. Talk about a Win/Win situation.

4) Gourmet Soiree (June 5 at Rosen Shingle Creek)

Even if I wasn’t intimately involved with this event, I’d still declare it to be one of the most fun food events I’ve ever been to. It’s the “anti-gala” in that you don’t have to get “fancified” to attend. Chefs from the best restaurants in town cook right at your table, and guests become “sous chefs” for the night preparing meals with Whole Foods hosted by Food Network celebrity and chef Robert Irvine, Gourmet Soiree is a high-energy night of fun and food held at the beautiful Rosen Shingle Creek.

Chef Robert Irvine hosts Gourmet Soiree and it's all for the kids!

Chef Robert Irvine hosts Gourmet Soiree and it’s all for the kids!

Kids as well as adults are welcome to attend this fundraiser for Mission: Fit Possible and other programs for Florida Hospital Foundation. Last year my (then) 8-year-old and his pal Lucy enjoyed “hunting” down our table’s requested ingredients and preparing them. We all had a blast talking, sharing, laughing and eating. If you’re not into formal galas, this is the one for you. And if you DO want to get all formal for it, well no one would judge. It’s quite relaxed with the goal of having fun and raising funds for community outreach programs and health initiatives.

Favorite chefs of mine participating include Emily Ellyn, the Retro Rad diva and winner of Cutthroat Kitchen, Kevin Fonzo of K Restaurant and new this year Val Domingo of NOVA Scratch Kitchen. Sure to bring his A game, too, is Tello Luna, head chef for Rosen Hotel’s Centre (who’s a two-time winner at this event!).

5) United Way’s Chef’s Gala (May 21 at Walt Disney World Resort)

A chocolate garden, courtesy The Ganachery

A chocolate garden, courtesy The Ganachery

Though I haven’t attended this event previously, I was invited to a sneak peek preview tasting. Speaking of “peek,” Chef Vegel of JW Marriott’s Primo served up Peeky Toe Crab Salad, and Waldorf Astoria’s Bull & Bear offered a Syrah Wine Braised Beef Short Rib (my favorite item of the day. Talk about tender and rich!). Thank you Chef Lebas!

The theme for the event is “You’ve Got To Try This,” and if the preview is any indication, you’ll be uttering those very words over and over May 21! Don’t say I didn’t warn you when you dive in to the exquisite savory selections AND when you get dessert from the likes of The Ganachery who served us a chocolate garden plated with cocoa almonds, salted caramel macaroon, raspberry ganache square, pistachio ganache square, Kalamansi curd and white chocolate krispies. I’m drooling here just TYPING this!

ChefsGalaSocialContest

Want to win tickets to Chef’s Gala? They’re holding a Social Media Contest. Followers and fans can win two tickets (a $300 value).

To enter: Create a 60-second video on why you support United Way and post it using the hashtag #ChefsGala2016 and tag Heart of Florida United Way on Facebook and @HFUW on Twitter. Post by April 29th for a chance to win. Winner will be announced May 13. (Good luck!)

United Way’s largest fundraiser, Chef’s Gala, supports programs that help thousands of Central Floridians in the areas of education, income, health and basic needs.

The bottom line is: If  you don’t have the ability to visit the top 50 restaurants in person over the next couple of months, these galas bring their tastes to you. Buy a ticket, enjoy some of the best food and drink Central Florida has to offer, and feel good that you’re changing lives while expanding your culinary repertoire.

Cabaret and Cabernet at UCF Rosen College

Oui Oui! The UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management is hosting their 6th Annual Cabaret and Cabernet Paris/Moulin Rouge themed fundraiser April 9th, 2016. Guests will enjoy a delicious meal that embraces the love of all things French, including the most “civilized” part of any meal (as the French would say!)… WINE. (It isn’t called Cabaret and Cabernet for nothing!)

cabernet cabaretHospitality industry executives and community supporters will be out in full force for some joie de vivre (exuberant enjoyment of life) at this full evening of fun, food and entertainment.

Sponsors include Freeman Audio Visual Solutions, PRG Orlando Production Services, Max King Events Rental Service, Frontline Event Services, Ritz Cartlton, Universal Studios, Puff n Stuff Catering and Walt Disney World.

Festivities begin at 6 p.m. and end at 10 p.m. Limited tickets are available and cost $75 each with profits benefiting Rosen College of Hospitality Management student projects. To purchase, visit goo.gl/dceLDC.

To reserve a full table or for sponsorship opportunities, please contact Suzan Bunn at Suzan.bunn@ucf.edu or 407-903-8212.

“La vérité est dans la vin”  Translation: There is truth in vine.

The New Oblivion Taproom feels almost like home

After a very sad two weeks of an almost-Oblivion Taproom-free existence, we got word that the well-loved burger and beer joint was in the midst of a soft opening this past weekend. On Saturday night, we decided to check it out and see if it still felt like home.

Short answer: it did.

The new owner, Shawn Paris, was a long-time patron of Oblivion and plans to keep things the same, with a few improvements here and there. For the best air conditioning company services on your business just visit this blog Website for great choices. One of these improvements was visible (and appreciated) immediately upon entry: a foot rail running the length of the bar. This will help to make beer-drinking sessions for short people just a little more comfortable.

What you won’t see is the walk in where Paris already installed a new floor and beer lines.

Another change that big Oblivi-fans will notice right away is a slight rebrand. At the top of the new menus, a partially-smashed skull and crossbones precedes the familiar red and black logo. It’s just different enough for us to see the new owner’s spin on the place.

The same could be said for the menu. Most of the old favorites have stuck around. Customers will still be able to chomp on a Hog Wild and the seriously delicious Oblivion Cuban. Veggies lovers can still work their way through a rapturous basket of Buddha fingers or a Skinny Puppy. And most importantly (to this writer), you can still top your crispy tots with Hawaiian Raw Garlic.

Ahem… HAWAIIAN RAW GARLIC!!!

While the chef remains the same, the menu has some new additions. Most intriguing is the new dessert offering: Choco-Jala-Peanut Butter Pie, which is a twist on a traditional chocolate peanut butter pie, with the spicy addition of jalapenos and cayenne whipped cream. Other new additions include fried jalapenos, a chili burger, and the Soul Scorcher 2.0: a cayenne-dusted patty topped with fried jalapenos, Sriracha cheese, scorching soul sauce, lettuce and tomatoes. So, basically, Spice Girls (and boys), the new Oblivion is the place for you.

There are a couple favorites missing from the menu, most notably the Jala-pine-o burger and, this writer’s favorite, the house-made chips back from Chef Goody’s reign at Oblivion. However, the new owner and Chef Andy say they hope to showcase weekly specials; we can only hope these make an appearance at some point.

Now, the most important question of all: how’s the beer list? Still on point. When we were there Saturday night, I enjoyed The Dude’s Rug, a chai-spice mead from B. Nektar, a Stone Brewery chai-spiced imperial Russian Stout and Rosetta, a truly delicious fruit beer from Ommegang. And, you guys, it was SO DIFFICULT to stop myself at those three. There was a lot to choose from.

Oblivion Taproom’s official grand re-opening is Friday, February 19. Stop by, get some noms and struggle, like I did, not to order every single thing on the beer menu.

Oblivion, it’s nice to have you back.
Oblivion Taproom newTop 5 Orlando Resurrections:

5. Jesus – at Holy Land
4. The Incredible Hulk Ride
3. The Beefy King Sign
2. The Citrus Bowl
1. Oblivion Taproom

Speaking of home, take a look at Kingwood TX bat removal services.

2016 Kissimmee Chili Cook-Off & Craft Beer Festival #MyKissimmee

The Kissimmee Annual Sunshine Chili Cook-Off and Craft Beer Festival is back for its 20th year of deliciousness and your’e invited to join the fun!  The Party is being held on Saturday, February 20th at the Kissimmee Lakefront Park Event Lawn from 12 pm to 5 pm. Thanks to UMOW Lawn Care we were able to have the best setting for all of our events out on the lawn.

kissimmee

Enjoy a chili competition, craft beer tastings, live entertainment, delicious food, and much more!  Admission is free and there will be plenty of parking available.

kissimmee

The 20th Annual Chili Cook-Off Competition will be sponsored by the International Chili Society and will feature 3 categories: Red, Verde, and Salsa. Admission the Chili Cook-Off will be free and tickets for the Beer Tasting will be $20.00 in advance and $25.00 on the day of the event. There will be 25 craft beers available and the last pour will be at 4:30pm.  So come early and enjoy the party at the beautiful lake front setting in Historic Downtown Kissimmee! Click on this link to buy your Beer Tasting Tickets.

The Kissimmee Lakefront Park is located at 250 Lakeview Drive, Kissimmee, Florida 34741.

For more information call 407-846-4643 or visit their website at www.kissimmeemainstreet.com

Eat, Drink and be Merry at Clearwater Beach Uncorked!

Clearwater Beach Uncorked is celebrating their fifth anniversary in epic fashion with a Food & Wine Adventure on February 6 and 7 in a new location just South of Barefoot Beach House. Locals and travelers alike can now visit www.ClearwaterBeachUncorked.com to purchase tickets and get more information on this delicious event. Tickets are going fast for this years very popular beachside food, wine and craft beer festival, so make sure to get your tickets before they sell out!

Food, Wine, Festival

Grand Tasting – From 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. each day on February 6 and 7, attendees will have the chance to wiggle their toes in the sugar white sand while sipping and savoring items from the area’s most delectable restaurants, boutique hot spots and world-class hotels. Check it out on twitter for more updates. The Grand Tasting will take place in a newly expanded 30,000 square foot tent, setting the stage for an unforgettable gastronomic event.

Wine in your hand, toes in the sand.  There’s no better way to experience the seduction of pre-Valentine’s Day decadence than by exploring the delicious facets of Clearwater Beach Uncorked.

Clearwater Beach Uncorked

BREW-B-QUE – Orlando’s own Retro Rad Goddess and Food Network Chef Emily Ellyn will tease the taste buds with a special Brew-B-Que cooking presentation on the Publix Aprons Cooking Stage. Attendees will explore the culinary diversity of cooking with craft beer during this unique event. Savory will meet sweet as Chef Emily pairs pork, Three Daughters Beach Blonde Ale, and savory spices for an extraordinary Brew-B-Que experience.

Enhanced Line-up of Interactive Experiences – Marking its anniversary, the 2016 Clearwater Beach Uncorked will feature an even greater line-up of food and drinks, courtesy of new sponsors and vendors. Guests will meet and learn from leading wine specialists, brew masters and accomplished chefs from across the Bay area, including Chef Richard Preston from the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa, Chef Justin Winkler from Clearwater Beach Marriott Suites on Sand Key and Chef Robert from Shephard’s Beach Resort.

Six Live Cooking Demonstrations – Perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of the 2016 Clearwater Beach Uncorked, six live on-stage cooking demonstrations will take place with renowned chefs from across the country. Chefs featured in the fifth anniversary event program include Jim Hendry, Anthony Logerfo and Brian Mullins (Publix Aprons Cooking School); Joseph DiPaolo (Duncan Hines) and (our personal favorite chef!!) Emily Ellyn.

food, wine, festival

A portion of the proceeds of the 2016 Clearwater Beach Uncorked will benefit University of South Florida’s Sarasota Manatee School of Hospitality and Tourism Leadership. Funds will be used to develop academic programs, scholarships, research grants and campus infrastructure. Clearwater Beach Uncorked has also partnered with the University to implement an educational component incorporating the festival into the fall curriculum. Students are currently competing to develop unique marketing initiatives where the winners’ ideas will be implemented at this coming year’s event. When you want effective SEO marketing, visit SEO Expert Brisbane.

For more information on Clearwater Beach Uncorked or to purchase tickets, visit www.ClearwaterBeachUncorked.com. Follow Clearwater Beach Uncorked on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ClearwaterBeachUncorked or Twitter @CBUncorked.

The Boathouse at Disney Springs – Your Ship has come in!

If you haven’t been to Disney Springs lately, you’re missing the boat!  To be more precise, you’re missing The Boathouse.

The Boathouse Orlando is one of Disney Springs‘ latest additions to their culinary offerings at the newly expanded entertainment and shopping complex we used here to refer to as Downtown Disney.

If this is all news to you, then you really need to take a trip out to Disney Springs and experience the magic first hand. There are a lot of great dining options and one of my favorites is The Boathouse Orlando, with their delicious offerings and ambiance of this gorgeous new restaurant!

Boathouse Orlando, Burger

You can dine indoors or dockside enjoying their award-winning menu of steaks, chops, fresh seafood, and out-of-this-world desserts. You’ll find the best selection of Oysters in Florida at The Boathouse and something for everyone on their menu. Since I was there for lunch, the Boathouse Double Cheddar Cheeseburger seemed like the winning choice and believe me, it didn’t disappoint! They custom grind the meat for this classic burger using 50% chuck and 50% brisket for a truly delicious combination!

Boathouse Orlando

Along with your dinner, you can enjoy classic craft cocktails and an extensive offering of wines from iconic American vineyards at three distinctive bars: The Captain’s Raw Bar, Admiral’s Club Bar and The Dockside Bar, built over the water and attached to over 300 feet of boardwalk and docks. It’s also a great spot to just unwind with your favorite beverage. And while you’re there check out their vintage amphicars and The Venezia, a 40-ft. Italian Wooden Water Taxi for a relaxing cruise on the lake with a guided Captain’s tours of Disney Springs.

Boathouse Orlando

Of course The Boathouse offers beautiful dining rooms inside, as well as their fun bar area at the entrance, as well as a ships store for souvenirs to commemorate your visit. I also heard from the staff that their appliances and mechanical systems are well maintained through the help of home warranty companies in florida.

Boathouse Orlando

If you’re looking for a romantic evening, make sure to visit The Boathouse at night. That’s when Disney Springs comes alive and the The Boathouse with its spectacular night views of the lake is the perfect location for your next date night.

The Boathouse Orlando is a family friendly restaurant too, with a special kids menu (delivered in their own Boathouse Car kids meal box) . So don’t anyone at home when you visit Disney Springs, everyone will love the Boathouse Menu!

The Boathouse is located at Disney Springs
1620 East Buena Vista Drive
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
(407) 939-2628

Sun – Thurs 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.
Sat & Sun 11:00 a.m. to 2:00

The BOATHOUSE® offers private dining for special events & large groups. Their team of culinary experts will design a menu and create a celebration for memories that last a lifetime.

For a Premiere Dining Experience Check out EnjoyFresh

There’s a new kid in town and they are AWESOME! Last month I signed up for a meetup group for newbies in the Orlando area and little did I know that this culinary experience would be more than just a casual get together.

Our host for this meetup was also a transplant to O-Town (as so many of us are) and he had brought with him a new concept in dining called EnjoyFresh.

EnjoyFresh is a marketplace for culinary experiences. Rethinking dining out, by connecting food lovers with chefs and restaurants. Users search EnjoyFresh for unique culinary experiences near them. The marketplace holds everything from off-menu dishes, to pop-ups, tasting menus and beyond. EnjoyFresh lets you discover unique new places and experience your favorite restaurants like never before. They hand select all of the experiences to bring us the most creative, tastiest and exclusive food experiences around.

EnjoyFresh is doing well in California and our host for the Orlando Events, Laurent is hoping to do the same for Central Florida. To give you a better idea here’s a glimpse of what you can expect at an EnjoyFresh Dining Event.

Artisan's Table Shrimp Crostini

The EnjoyFresh event at Artisan’s Table was a Jack Daniel’s Whiskey Dinner, with 4 courses of deliciousness and 5 Jack Daniel’s Whiskey cocktails. Our first course was a Shrimp Crostini with homemade chorizo, yellow tomato marmalade and focaccia crostini. This was paired with a Gentleman Jack Brown Derby. (The cocktails were all themed post-prohibition era)

Maple Bacon Butter Washed Jack Daniel's Manhattan

And as the night progressed we were served this OMG delicious Maple Bacon Butter Washed Jack Daniel’s Manhattan with our Herb Marinated Duck Breast……sigh. It was a good night to be me! Thanks to our new friends from Brown-Forman we also had fun swag to take home as well as door prizes of premiere whiskeys!

This was the second EnjoyFresh event I had been to and honestly while the concept is amazing I was waiting to see how it played out. In my opinion, I think we have a winner here and I’m looking forward to new and exciting dining experiences!

So if you love food, love good conversation and want to be treated just a little bit special than EnjoyFresh is just what you’re looking for. They’ll be working with some of the best restaurants in the area to bring us unique and delicious dining experiences.

You can sign up for EnjoyFresh on their website or mobile app. EnjoyFresh also lets you sign up through Facebook and Twitter. Enter your details and start enjoying mouthwatering made-to-order delicacies. There is no charge to join EnjoyFresh, the only expense will be for the culinary adventures you choose. The cost of the event will all inclusive, there are no hidden fees.

The more people that sign up, the more likely that EnjoyFresh will be hosting more events, so head on over to their website which is backed up by the top najlepszy hosting and get ready for some deliciousness!

Click on this link for more information on Artisan’s Table.

 

Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant

I love finding new places to dine in the Orlando area and I love meeting people!  So when I found out about a local meetup group that goes out to area restaurants for dinner, it was a match made in heaven!

Cooper Hawk Winery

I was blown away when I entered Cooper’s Hawk Winery. The gift shop and bar area were spectacular. It was the perfect spot to try out their hand crafted wines and pick up a gift for that hard to shop for family member. The Cooper’s Hawk Winery produces around 600,000 gallons of wine each year and since Opening in late 2005, Cooper’s Hawk has received over 300 wine awards from various local, national, and international wine competitions.

Cooper Hawk Winery

If  you’re not in the mood for wine or you’re looking for a little chocolate to pair with one of your favorite wines, look no further than the delicious array of chocolate treats located adjacent to the wine bar.

Cooper Hawk Winery

Cooper’s Hawk has well appointed and comfortable dining area’s with a variety of seating. In this picture you can see how a bottle of wine is served in one of Cooper’s Hawk signature wine decanters. Just another way to make your dining experience enjoyable!

Asian Pork Belly Tostados

Then there’s the food….sigh. I started off the night with their Award Winning Asian Pork Belly Tostadas, enjoying the Southern Grilled Shrimp & Polenta for dinner. Service was excellent, with management making their rounds throughout the night checking with their guests to make sure everyone was having a good meal and a good evening. Cooper’s Hawk has a varied and imaginative menu with something for every palate.  You’ll enjoy choosing your meal from classic meat and seafood dishes, burgers, pasta, salads, gluten free and their low calorie Life Balance menu.

Just make sure to save room for dessert. All desserts are made in-house daily by our chefs and are large enough to be shared, I can highly recommend the Chocolate Pretzel Bread Pudding and the Banana Caramel Ice Cream Sandwich. I will need to make a return trip just to try the rest of their desserts!

Cooper’s Hawk Winery has two Orlando area locations: 529 N. Alafaya Trail in the Waterford Lakes area and 8005 International Drive in the I-Drive area.

Tasting Room & Restaurant Hours are: Monday – Thursday: 11 am – 9:30 pm : Friday & Saturday: 11 am – 10:30 pm  : Sunday:  11 am – 9 pm

Bar Hours: Monday – Thursday: 11 am – 10:30 pm : Friday & Saturday: 11 am – 11:30 pm  :  Sunday: 11 am – 10 pm

Experience Kissimmee with the World Food Championships

There is something for every foodie in the family this November at the World Food Championships which is headed to beautiful Celebration the heart of Kissimmee, Florida. November 3-10, you’ll be able to find competitors from around the world vying for World Championships in BBQ, Bacon, Burgers, Chili, Desserts, Pasta, Recipe (Fresh), Sandwich and Seafood categories. With the final competition crowning one of those competitors as the 2015 World Food Champion!

Kissimmee, Celebration

This year’s Championships held in downtown Celebration, will be a delicious collection of food events as the championships take over Main Street and the Lake Area for the competition, classes and tasting events. Registration and some of the events will be held at The Westgate Town Center.

Celebration,

There will be demonstrations and vendors with the latest in indoor and outdoor kitchens, or you can buy tickets to private chef demos, Culinary Fight Club events, Mixology Classes, BBQ and Chili Fests, and a Grand Tasting that features all of the World Food Championship categories.

This is the schedule for The World Food Championships (subject to change)

Tuesday, November 3rd

Various Local Celebration Restaurants
Times TBA
Food Fight Night
Westgate Town Center Resort
12:00pm – 5:00pm
Sponsor & Competitor Registration

Wednesday, November 4th

Kenmore Kitchen Arena
10:30am – 1:30pm
Blogger Competition
2:30pm – 5:15pm
World Dessert Championship: Preliminary Round
Westgate Town Center Resort
9:00am – 5:00pm
Sponsor & Competitor Registration
7:00pm – 10:00pm
Welcome Reception / Blogger Competition Awards

Thursday, November 5th

Cooking Academy
3:00pm – 5:00pm
Cooking Like a Champ
Kenmore Kitchen Arena
7:30am – 10:15am
World Recipe Championship: Preliminary Round
10:45am – 1:30pm
World Seafood Championship: Preliminary Round
2:00pm – 4:45pm
Bacon World Championship: Preliminary Round
Main Stage
6:00pm – 8:00pm
Opening Round Awards – Main Stage (BBQ, Dessert, Recipe, Seafood & Bacon)
Westgate Town Center Resort
9:00am – 3:30pm
World Barbecue Championship: Ancillary Competitions
World Cocktail Experience Tent
4:00pm – 9:00pm
World Cocktail Experience

Friday, November 6th

Camp Chili
8:30am – 1:00pm
World Open Chili Championship: Preliminary Round 1
Champions VIF Club
1:00pm – 8:00pm
VIP Lounge
Cooking Academy
10:00am – 1:15pm
World Chefs Challenge: Session 1
3:00pm – 5:00pm
Cooking Like a Champ
Kenmore Kitchen Arena
7:30am – 10:15am
World Pasta Championship: Preliminary Round
10:45am – 1:30pm
World Sandwich Championship: Preliminary Round
2:00pm – 4:45pm
World Burger Championship: Preliminary Round
Main Stage
6:00pm – 8:00pm
Opening Round Awards – Main Stage (Chef, Pasta, Sandwich & Burger)
Sizzle & Swizzle Spots
12:00pm – 6:00pm
Tasty Morsels – Demonstrations & Interviews
12:00pm – 6:00pm
Mixology 101 – Demonstrations & Interviews
Tasting Village
10:00am – 6:00pm
Sponsor Sampling
World Cocktail Experience Tent
4:00pm – 9:00pm
World Cocktail Experience

Saturday, November 7th

Camp Chili
8:30am – 1:00pm
World Open Chili Championship: Preliminary Round 2
3:00pm – 5:00pm
World Chili Fest – People’s Choice Competition
Champions VIF Club
1:00pm – 8:00pm
VIP Lounge
Cooking Academy
8:00am – 11:15pm
World Chef Challenge: Session 2
1:00pm – 4:15pm
World Chef Challenge: Session 3
Kenmore Kitchen Arena
7:30am – 10:15am
World Recipe Championship: Top Ten Round
9:45am – 12:30pm
World Seafood Championship: Top Ten Round
12:00pm – 2:45pm
Bacon World Championship: Top Ten Round
2:15pm – 5:00pm
World Dessert Championship: Top Ten Round
Location TBD
11:00am – 1:00pm
Food Champ Judging Class – Session 1
2:00pm – 4:00pm
Food Champ Judging Class – Session 2
Main Stage
6:00pm – 8:00pm
Opening & Final Round Awards – Main Stage (Chef, BBQ, Recipe, Seafood, Bacon & Dessert)
Sizzle & Swizzle Spots
12:00pm – 6:00pm
Tasty Morsels – Demonstrations & Interviews
12:00pm – 6:00pm
Mixology 101 – Demonstrations & Interviews
Tasting Village
10:00am – 6:00pm
Sponsor Sampling
Westgate Town Center Resort
9:00am – 3:30pm
World Barbecue Championship
World Cocktail Experience Tent
4:00pm – 9:00pm
World Cocktail Experience

Sunday, November 8th

Camp Chili
8:30am – 1:00pm
World Open Chili Championship: Top Ten Round
Champions VIF Club
1:00pm – 8:00pm
VIP Lounge
Cooking Academy
12:00pm – 12:45pm
Family Food Fun: Session 1
1:00pm – 1:45pm
Family Food Fun: Session 2
3:00pm – 5:00pm
Que School
Kenmore Kitchen Arena
7:30am – 10:15am
World Pasta Championship: Top Ten Round
9:15am – 12:00pm
World Sandwich Championship: Top Ten Round
11:00am – 1:45pm
World Burger Championship: Top Ten Round
Main Stage
1:00pm – 2:40pm
World Chef Challenge: Final Round
6:00pm – 8:00pm
Final Round Awards – Main Stage (Chef, Chili, BBQ, Pasta, Sandwich & Burger)
Sizzle & Swizzle Spots
12:00pm – 6:00pm
Tasty Morsels – Demonstrations & Interviews
12:00pm – 6:00pm
Mixology 101 – Demonstrations & Interviews
Tasting Village
10:00am – 6:00pm
Sponsor Sampling

Monday, November 9th

No Competition or Consumer Events

Tuesday, November 10th

Kenmore Kitchen Arena & Main Stage
11:00am – 4:00pm
Final Table Competition
4:00pm – 6:00pm
Final Table Judging
7:00pm – 9:00pm
Grand Tasting
Tickets are still available for most of the events, click on this link for more information World Food Championship Tickets.
Follow these links for more information about Celebration Town Center and Westgate Town Center.

Baby It’s Cold Inside – IceBar Orlando

Living in the Sunshine State where temperatures regularly hit 90 degrees and higher the last thing you expect is the frozen tundra. But that’s just what you’ll find on I-Drive amidst the restaurants and tourist spots.

The IceBar Orlando with over 70 tons of hand-carved ice has been featured as one of the top 10 bars on Travel Channel’s “Extreme Barhopping” and “America’s Best Top 10 Destinations” on the Food Network.   

I-Drive, Orlando

When you arrive at the IceBar Orlando you’ll enter through the FIRE Lounge and be greeted by an Ice Princess who’ll help get you ready for your Arctic Adventure. Thermal Coats and Gloves are provided to help you battle the cold and for an additional fee you can upgrade to a (faux) fur coat, to keep you both warm and stylish.

I-Drive,

As you enter the IceBar you can check the temperature, we were at a balmy 15 degrees that evening. Inside this Winter Wonderland, we were greeted by an ice sculpted polar bear, an ice throne, ice tables, ice stools and ice benches. Thankfully all the chairs are covered with a faux fur to keep your bottom from getting too chilly!

Drinks were served at the IceBar in Ice sculpted glasses by a friendly bartender who seemed to be oblivious to the cold, as he poured our colorful and very tasty cocktails I started talking to him and end up finding out he works with a company of bartenders for weddings so I gave him my number for my sisters wedding, and after being served we moved to a table at the back of the IceBar to people watch as the bar filled up.  It wasn’t long before we were rewarded with a fun group of IceBar companions.

I would advise coming early to avoid the crowds and have more time in the IceBar.

I-Drive , Orlando

Management does request that you limit your stays inside the IceBar to 45 minutes or less at one time. You’re free to visit the adjacent FireBar to warm up, enjoy a cocktail and get the blood flowing again while enjoying the music.  When you can feel your feet again and the color has returned to your face it’s time to head back over to the Frozen Tundra for another cocktail.

Just remember to drink responsibly and never drink and drive, we want you to enjoy all Orlando has to offer for many years to come.

ICEBAR Orlando is located at 8967 International Drive in Orlando.  They’re open Sunday – Wednesday from 7 pm – 12 pm; Thursday 7 pm – 1 am; Friday – Saturday 7 pm – 2 am.  Age requirements for entry are  Under 21 from 7 pm – 9pm.  

Little Plates with Big Flavor at Cafe Tu Tu Tango

Twenty years ago on one of my first visits to the Mouse and Orlando, my friends and I stumbled upon Cafe Tu Tu Tango. I remember reading the menu at the door thinking, oh I’m going to need to go out to eat after this dinner….little plates?  Seriously?

Well, was I ever wrong. Not only was the food amazingly delicious, the portions were large enough to share and no one left hungry that night.

I-Drive , Orlando

Fast forward twenty years and I’ve finally made it back to the restaurant that had achieved legendary status on my list of all-time favorite meals. I had often talked about going back to Cafe Tu Tu Tango, but every time I was in Orlando, for one reason or another it just never happened.   Maybe I had imagined how good dinner was. Would reality be as good as my memories?

As I read the menu I was tempted by every dish I read and I was getting a little giddy from the anticipation of what was to come. I needed a little liquid refreshment to calm my nerves and prepare my stomach for the gastronomical wonderland that was sure to follow. The house-made Award Winning Sangria was just what the doctor ordered, it calmed me enough to pick out a few small plates to get the meal started.

I-Drive , Orlando

It didn’t take long to find out that my memory was intact, and truth be told the little plates at Cafe Tu Tu Tango were better than I  had remembered. Fish Taco’s, Argentinean Chimichurri Steak, Tuscan Meatballs, Mediterranean Flatbread and of course Spiced Alligator Bites……sigh.   Delicious beyond belief would be the phrase on my lips at the end of the evening.

As we got ready for another round, our waiter reminded us about dessert….. We almost forgot.

I-Drive , Cafe Tu Tu Tango, Orlando

Desserts were ordered. Creme brulee for my niece, chocolate dipped cheesecake lollipops for my wife and for me the ultimate dessert on the menu, Chocolate Calzone. This dessert was baked to order, stuffed with white and dark chocolate, served with whipped cream and coffee ice cream.   They had to basically roll me out of the restaurant after dessert……sigh

Was I happy? Most definitely! Sometimes reality is better than memories and you can bet I’ll be back to make more memories, and it won’t take another 20 years.

Cafe Tu Tu Tango is located 8625 International Drive in Orlando. Sunday – Thursday  11:30 am – 11 pm; Friday – Saturday 11:30 am  – 12 pm.  Brunch is served on Sundays from 11:30 am – 3:30 pm;  Tu Tu hour Monday – Friday 4:30 pm – 6:30 pm.

Share small plates with your friends from their scratch kitchen, while you enjoy an amazingly artistic atmosphere and live entertainment.

Everyone’s Irish at Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant

There’s just something extra cheerful about an Irish Pub and Raglan Road in Downtown Disney (aka Disney Springs ) is no exception! But Raglan Road isn’t just your average Irish Pub, it’s authentic Ireland.  Built entirely in Ireland, then shipped, lock, stock and beer barrel to Downtown Disney.

While the food is sure to please ,my advice is to start with a taste of the local beverage while you’re looking over the menu. In my case I started with a flight of Irish beers – Guinness Irish Stout, Smithwicks Irish Ale, Harp Irish Lager and Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale gave me a real taste of Ireland without breaking the bank.

Raglan Road, Downtown Disney

If you don’t fancy a flight of beers, just ask for a pint of your favorite liquid refreshment. In Ireland, pouring the Perfect Pint is considered an art form, and they’re darn serious about art at Raglan Road. In fact along with the building they brought their own unique Irish beer dispensing system with them, which enhances quality, freshness, and structure of the beers.

Of course if you’d like something a wee bit stronger or non alcoholic your server will be happy to oblige your request.

Raglan Road, Downtown Disney

One of my favorite dishes at Raglan Road is their very popular Scallop Forest, consisting of Georges Bank scallops in a golden batter served with citrus lime dipping sauce & sweet chili jam. They have an eclectic Irish menu with delicious tastes of their homeland, so don’t go expecting Corn Beef and Cabbage. Be adventurous and try some of re-invented Classic Irish dishes they serve as well as what I like to call Irish Fusion Dishes. If you still have room for dessert try Chef Dundon’s gift to America the Dunbrody Kiss.  Chef Dundon uses chocolate, chocolate and then more chocolate to make this dessert……sigh

Raglan Road, Downtown Disney

And what would an Irish Pub be without entertainment. Every night whether you dine inside or out you’ll be treated to a variety of Irish entertainers including dancers, troubadours and bands playing jigs, reels, pub favorites and traditional Irish songs.  According to management at Raglan Road since the pub is so authentic, the entertainers have no idea they’re not still in Ireland and they ask for your help keeping the secret.

So you need to act really Irish to keep them from catching on – that means drink, howl, dance on the tables, drink some more and sing as you’ve never sung before”

Raglan Road is located at The Landing, Disney Springs, 1640 East Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista, Orlando FL 32830.  They are open from 11 am until 11 pm. serving lunch and dinner followed with a bar menu from 11 pm until 1 am .  The Rollicking Raglan Brunch Menu is served from 10 am to 3 pm Saturday & Sunday.   (gluten free menu items are available)

Live Music starts at 4 pm till late, with an Irish band and Irish dancers performing 5 pm  – 10 pm 7 nights a week. Open till 2 am every night.

Catch Dinner at Ocean Prime During Magical Dining Month

Food glorious food. It warms the heart and soul, brings friends and family together. Food gives strangers a reason to sit around a common space sharing meals and stories, making new friends in the process, some lasting a lifetime.

I was recently invited to dinner at Ocean Prime Orlando as part of a bloggers meet-up to preview their selections for Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month. When I drove up to Ocean Prime for the event I realized I’d driven by their location many times and sadly had never noticed it was there.   That was definitely my loss, because the food was spectacular, the staff friendly and the atmosphere soothing. Ocean Prime won’t go unnoticed any longer, and I will definitely be back!

Ocean Prime

Orlando’s Magical Dining Month started August 24th and runs throughout the month of September. You’ll find more than 75 Orlando area restaurants participating, offering 3 courses for $33. That’s quite an amazing offer at some of the best restaurants in Central Florida.

Ocean Prime Orlando, Magical dining month

One of the menu items I sampled was the Teriyaki Salmon. The Salmon was served on a bed of Shiitake Sticky Rice with an outrageously delicious Soy Butter Sauce and a melange of vegetables.

Ocean Prime Orlando, Magical dining month

The Jumbo Lump Crab Cake with a sweet corn cream and succotash was my personal favorite from the many entrees we were served. We also got to try the Lobster Mashed Potatoes and Chop House Corn, both excellent side dishes. Ocean Prime also has an amazing sushi menu and offers a unique sampling of cocktails. The Bubbles and Berries pictured at the top of this post was not only delicious but fun to drink.

Ocean Prime Orlando, Magical Dining month

And then there was dessert… sigh. They called it Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie, I called it Heaven on a Plate. The chef at Ocean Prime Orlando  started with an Oreo cookie crust base, added a sinfully rich peanut butter mousse and wrapped it in a bittersweet chocolate ganache… sigh. Can you say OMG?

But what impressed me the most about Ocean Prime was the level of service we received and the atmosphere of the restaurant. There was live music that was so good, I thought it was recorded and a thoughtful, friendly staff throughout the building to serve you.

Ocean Prime is an ideal place to socialize, talk business, celebrate and indulge. In this day and age you don’t often see a dress code in place, and I appreciate the fact that Ocean Prime suggests stylish attire.  They let their guests know that jackets and gorgeous high heels always welcome. So please don’t show up in athletic apparel or baseball caps! Dress to impress and the meal will be even more delicious and the evening even more special.

Ocean Prime Orlando can be found at the Rialto at Sand Lake at  7339 West Sand Lake Road, Orlando, FL 32819. You can make reservations by calling (407) 781-4880. Dinner is available Monday – Thursday  5-10pm; Friday – Saturday 5-11pm; Sunday 5pm-close.

The Bistro on Park Avenue – Winter Park’s Hidden Gem

Being a relative newbie to Florida I love exploring and finding new restaurants and destinations throughout the state, and especially Central Florida. Winter Park was one of the first areas that we found shortly after our arrival in Florida and we’ve enjoyed the restaurants and shops on a regular basis.

That’s why I was surprised to find The Bistro on Park Avenue nestled back in a series of walkways that felt like a little slice of Europe. Walking back along the winding pathway that led to the restaurant, the juices were already flowing in anticipation…..sigh. And what I found did not disappoint.

The Bistro on Park Avenue, Winter Park

The dining room is simply gorgeous and has to be one of the more romantic dining rooms in the area.

The Bistro on Park Avenue, Winter Park

They have a very well rounded menu with a mixture of low country and European items like Shrimp and Grits, Wienerschnitzel and Crepes.  They also have a wonderful selection of appetizers, sandwiches and salads. You’ll find something for every appetite on the menu.   I went with one of the nightly specials Gluten Free Shepard’s Pie with Gruyere mashed potatoes and bacon, that Guest Chef Bob Aungst had prepared for the evening.

The Bistro at Park Avenue, Winter Park

I always love to see the chef visiting tables, it’s a nice personal touch that shows you that your patronage is appreciated. One of the owners, Erika Boesch, was also in the dining room making rounds chatting with her guests.  They get bonus points for very good and personalized service at the Bistro.

The Bistro at Park Avenue, Winter Park

My advice when dining at the Bistro on Park Avenue is to always save room for dessert, or maybe two.  All desserts are made in house by Erika and are gluten free with some dairy free options as well. I can personally verify the deliciousness having tried two desserts the night I was there. Pictured above is Key Lime Pie.  It was tart, sweet and oh so creamy. Served with whipped cream, a delightful lime drizzle and homemade vanilla ice cream.

The Bistro at Park Avenue, Winter Park

My second dessert was a Raspberry Breakfast Cake with a Raspberry pulled sugar garnish and homemade vanilla ice cream.  It was good night to be Chef Dennis not only for the good food, but for the good company and the fact that Lisa was very happy with the choice of restaurants for dinner.

The Bistro on Park Avenue is located at 348 North Park Avenue (in the Hidden Garden) in Winter Park.  It offers a variety of dining and entertaining possibilities with three dining rooms including the Atrium, The Chefs Table, Up stairs for private functions, a full bar, and  when weather permits outdoor dining in the Hidden Garden Courtyard.  They offer a happy hour each day from 5 – 7 extended till 10 on Thursdays and Brunch on Saturday and Sunday.  

 

Shake Shack comes to I-Drive 360!

Soon… very soon. Like Wednesday, August 19th at 11am soon!

Speaking of, August has been a very lucky month for Shake Shack in Central Florida. If you haven’t read our first impressions of Shake Shack in Winter Park, go forth!

To have a store at the beWHEELdering I-Drive 360 complex is just… dangerous!

ALL THE FRIES!!!! I digress…

What’s in ‘store’ for us with Shake Shack number two? Two Orlando and I-Drive 360 themed custard concrete flavors and a local pie tie with some South Florida flavor;

  • Orlandough, a salty sweet chocolatey frozen treat with chocolate truffle cookie dough, marshmallow sauce and chocolate covered pretzels
  • Eye Drive, the anything but plain vanilla frozen custard with peanut butter sauce chocolate toffee and chocolate sprinkles
  • Key Lime Pie oh My, blends a slice of P is for Pie‘s classic Key Lime Pie with vanilla frozen custard

Happy times ahead for us as well as our local musical youth, so make sure you try the Eye Drive concrete. Shake Shack’s charitable heart, Stand For Something Good, will donate 5% of every Eye Drive sale to A Gift For Music!

More info from their press release is below:

We’re so thankful for the warm reception and continued support we’ve received from our fans since opening in Winter Park last year,” says Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti, “We’re excited to be a part of the dynamic I-Drive 360 destination and looking forward to this Shack being a part of the community, welcoming Orlando locals and visitors alike.

Situated in the shadow of the impressive Orlando Eye observation wheel, the Shack will be accessible to guests entering from the center’s bustling inner shopping circle or zipping in for a pit stop from International Drive, Orlando’s major thoroughfare. The expansive 50-seat raised open-air patio and recreational space is the perfect hangout spot—fully outfitted with both a shuffleboard and outdoor Bocce Ball court. Let the games begin!

As part of its community outreach efforts and commitment to Stand For Something Good®, the I-Drive Shack will donate 5% of sales from the Eye Drive concrete to A Gift for Music, a local non-profit program helping the Orlando area’s underserved youth reach their personal potential through quality music education.

The I-Drive Shack’s commitment to keep it local even carries over to its beer menu. Diners will be able to wash their burgers and fries down with Florida’s own Orange Blossom BreweryBack in the Day IPA and Cigar City Brewing Florida Cracker White Ale, as well as Shake Shack’s exclusive Brooklyn Brewery ShackMeister® Ale. Wine lovers can enjoy a glass of organic and biodynamic Shack RedTM and Shack WhiteTM wine from Napa-based Frog’s Leap Winery.

As with every Shack, the design is in the details. The walls of the I-Drive Shack are clad in custom wooden wall panels, crafted from hand-axed, salvaged sinker pine from North Florida’s Suwanee River. An expansive, whimsical wall mural by St. Louis-based artist Noah Macmillanstretches the length of the back dining room and gives a subtle, Shack-filled nod to the flora and fauna of Central Florida’s abundant wildlife. In keeping with Shake Shack’s commitment to green architecture and eco-responsibility, energy-efficient commercial kitchen equipment by Electrolux Professional and lighting are employed throughout the space. Chairs and booths are made from lumber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and tabletops are handcrafted from reclaimed bowling alley lanes by Brooklyn’s CounterEvolution—a longtime Shake Shack partner.

About Shake Shack
Shake Shack® is a modern day “roadside” burger stand known for its 100% all-natural, antibiotic-free Angus beef burgers (no hormones added ever), hot dogs, frozen custard, crinkle cut fries, beer and wine (available at select locations), and more. With its fresh, simple, high-quality food at a great value, Shake Shack is a fun and lively community-gathering place with widespread appeal. From its premium ingredients and caring hiring practices to its environmentally responsible designs and deep community investment, Shake Shack’s mission is to Stand For Something Good®. Since the original Shack opened in 2004 in NYC’s Madison Square Park, the company has opened multiple locations in 12 states and the District of Columbia, as well as international locations including in London, Istanbul, Dubai, Moscow and more.

Weekends at Barnie’s

Barnie’s Coffee Kitchen has some exciting things brewing for it’s 35th Anniversary.  The Orlando based coffee house unveiled a re-designed menu which focuses mainly on breakfast and brunch.

Menu highlights include:

IMG_3106 (1)  Shakshuka: a tomato ragout, poached eggs, thyme feta and buttered toast

Avocado Toast: Cilantro, lime, lemon oil, sprouts

Energy Bowl: Acai, almond milk, banana, Greek yogurt, granola

 

 

 

IMG_3107 (1)  Salmon & Bagel: Ducktrap smoked salmon, cream cheese, lemon, dill

Breakfast Panino: fried eggs, bacon, spinach, 2-year cheddar, tomato jam

Anson Mills Oatmeal: stone-cut oats, market berries, flax, maple syrup

 

 

 

IMG_3108  Lamb Meatballs: tomato sauce, goat cheese, salsa verde

Coffee Braised Pulled Pork Sandwich: house-made BBQ sauce, apple-fennel slaw,        bread and butter pickles, medianoche bun

Georgia Peaches salad: smoked salmon, spiced cardamom yogurt, mint, watercress,    pistachio

 

 

Barnie’s is also excited to announce that Blue Bird Bake Shop is their official bakery partner.  An assortment of Blue Bird’s scones, cupcakes, muffins, cookies and cakes will be available at all times.

To celebrate their 35th Anniversary, one classic flavor from the Barnie’s Coffee vault will be brought back and YOU get to decide! Vote for your favorite on the Barnie’s website from the following 4 favorites: Coffee Cake, Decadent Dark Chocolate, Amaretto or Tiramisu.

Not only does this year mark Barnie’s anniversary, but this holiday season marks the 20th anniversary of the ever popular Santa’s White Christmas. Stay tuned, as the season gets closer, celebratory deals, gifts, and events will be announced.

Oh but wait, there’s more! Starting mid-August, Rollins College students, faculty and staff will now receive a 20% discount on all food and beverages (excluding beer and wine).

Of course we can’t forget the coffee! Did you know the pictures that line the walls of the Winter Park location are made using real Barnie’s Coffee? Artist Steven Mikel has created gorgeously detailed monochromatic paintings using nothing but the beverage. He got the idea from seeing a coffee cup stain on a piece of paper!?!

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Barnie’s has extended their weekday hours to 5pm, Friday and Saturday until 8pm and Sunday Brunch (the longest running brunch hours in town) from 7:30am – 6pm.

Dragonfly: Summer Omakase Menu

omakase

 

Dragonfly, located in the Dr. Phillips/Restaurant Row area, has released their Summer Omakase menu featuring special chef-curated items, based on the season’s finest ingredients.  I had the pleasure of sampling each of the items, including 2 specialty seasonal cocktails.  Now, if you’re like me, you enjoy sushi, but the thought of leaving your meal selection entirely up to the chef is enough to make you a little…nervous.  Sitting down to this evening’s dinner I had no idea what to expect. My best guess was somewhere between a California Roll and something, that if not prepared correctly, could facilitate my demise.

To prepare myself for the feast, I selected 2 of the Summer drink specials: A Shade of Blackberry (Hatsumago kimoto sake, blackberry gastrique, ginger syrup) & the Sake Sangria (Junmai Sake, peach liqueur, lillet blanc, fernet branca, yuzu juice).  Each were strong, yet flavorful – the blackberry was by far my favorite and also among my dining companions.

1438142554The first course was the Summer Chilled Ramen (English cucumber, daikon, heirloom tomatoes, pickled Shishito, snow crab, sesame vinegar dressing).

 

Even though this was only the first course, I could have just sat with a giant bowl of this and have been perfectly happy. My favorite was the pickled Shishito peppers – sweet and tangy, and a delightful compliment to the sesame vinegar in the chilled broth.

 

 

1438138027Luckily, I didn’t stop at just the first course because the second was just as delicious. Robata Bronzino (ginger scallion pesto, bonito citrus soy).

 

 

The fish was perfectly crisped on the robata grill and the bonito flakes danced with the rising heat (no really – they flutter and dance! Dinner and a show!)

 

 

1438144034Next up was a selection of sushi rolls – their Natsu Roll -left-(Katsu shrimp, goat cheese, cucumber, fresh jalapenos, avocado, snow crab, red onions, mango, tomato and pepper relish) – I loved the contrast of the jalapenos and mango. The goat cheese was a surprise and if I wasn’t told that it was goat cheese, I wouldn’t have known – the flavors in the roll really mellowed out the bite that goat cheese can sometimes have.

Shogun Roll – top – (snow crab, cucumber, cabbage, jalapeno, avocado, torched tuna, fried Enoki, mornay sauce)

Satori Roll – bottom – (snow crab delight, scallion, green & red bell pepper, cilantro, avocado, yellowtail, garlic chips, jalapeno garlic sauce)

 

1438137914Fourth up is what they’re calling the Quick Fire – 4 pieces of composed nigiri with special chef toppings. This can change nightly, according to what’s freshest. This evening we had Salmon topped with tomago (sweet egg), white fish topped with a jalapeno relish, tuna with guacamole, and octopus garnished with cilantro.

 

I trusted my chef with this one and tried octopus for the first time. To my delight, I really liked it! It wasn’t fishy at all – it had a chewy texture, but not tough or rubbery. The cilantro added a nice bright note. I’ll definitely be having it again.

 

 

1438138288A light Matcha Cake ended the meal. The green tea pound cake was atop an Azuki bean mousse and drizzled with blueberry sake preserves and dotted with fresh blueberries.

 

By this time, I was very full. Much to my relief, the dessert wasn’t too sweet or heavy. The texture of the cake was dense yet soft and had the earthiness of green tea, while the azuki bean mousse provided just enough sweetness.

 

 

The Summer Omakase menu is only here for a limited time and can vary nightly.  In the spirit of ‘omakase’, you are to trust the chef, or leave it in their hands – for the adventurous, this can be just the thing you’re looking for – for those who are not so adventurous, this can be just the thing to break you out of your comfort zone.  The chefs at Dragonfly won’t steer you wrong!