Red Pasta, Another Prato Masterpiece

They surprise me every visit, those chefs at Prato, Winter Park’s progressive-Italian restaurant.

Last night’s menu listed rosmary “tonnarelli.” The description: brown butter, amaretti crumb, parsnip passata. I figured it would be some tender gnocchi-like white globs with a buttery rosemary flavor.

Prato's rosemary tonnarelli

Prato’s rosemary tonnarelli

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What a Way to Dine with Disney

With Disney, at Disney, about Disney. It was one and the same at Dining through the Decades, a Tribute to Walt, one of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival‘s many special food events in 2014.

Jell-O cups

Jell-O cups

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It’s as Easy as ABC to Find Heavenly Flan

When Marisel Fernandez founded Heavenly Flan four years ago, she sold a single flavor from farmers market stalls.

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Here Is a Dessert that You Must Eat

It’s potato chip-crusted chocolate cake with peanut brittle and salted caramel. Need I say more?

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Orlando’s Best Vegetarian Entree

I got to try Soco last night a so-called “Southern Contemporary Cuisine” restaurant in Orlando’s Thornton Park neighborhood.

The food is promising, and I’ll review it for Orlando Life soon, but meanwhile I want to share this vegetarian dish with you. It’s an entree that looks so appealing, and tastes so fine, that meat-shunners will feel as if they’re being treated with respect.

Soco's chicken-fried cauliflower steak

Soco’s chicken-fried cauliflower steak

It’s called chicken-fried cauliflower steak. Essentially, a  huge, just-tender wedge of the white vegetable is coated in a nice crust. It sits atop garlic mashed potatoes. Little artichokes surround the potatoes, asparagus lies across the top, and a “vine ripe tomato gravy”–essentially a deeply flavored liquid–on the plate adds a rich dimension.
The dish is $17 and worth every penny.

I’ll be finishing my leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

Eat enthusiastically,
Rona

www.ronarecommends.com

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Bubble Bonanza — Boba Tea in Orlando

I’ve been searching for jasmine milk bubble tea since this fab place called something like Q Time closed a few years ago. It was near Orlando’s 1st Oriental Supermarket.

Bingo!  A small local chain called Chewy Boba Company sells that and way more.

Peach tea with boba

Peach tea with boba

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Ice Pops, at Their Peak

We went a  little food-wild yesterday at the Orlando Farmers Market, which until just now I thought was called the Lake Eola Farmers Market. Food, beverage, and crafts vendors gather every Sunday.

Thirsty, my food-finding companion couldn’t resist trying this salted-chocolate ice pop.

Salted-chocolate ice pop

Salted-chocolate ice pop

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Live Like a Food Tourist at the Waldorf Orlando

We’ll start with this photo. Take a look.

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Chocolate cigar

That’s a dessert, not a cigar. It’s bittersweet, tender and flaky and creamy all at once. That’s because the interior is Mexican chocolate ganache, the exterior a chocolate wafer. The ash is made from merengue–colored with squid ink!

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The Challah of All Challahs

I haven’t even tasted these yet. They are so gorgeous that I am super-excited and had to post their photos right away.

Challah 1

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My New Favorite Ice Cream Is at Epcot

I don’t even have the details yet. I’ll get them and and write them up in Orlando Life. But I just tasted one of Epcot’s new ice creams and must let you know about it immediately.

Epcot ice cream

This is a salted caramel ice cream. Epcot calls it Fleur de Sel or some other fancy take on salt.  It’s sold in the ice cream shop in the France pavilion so that makes sense. I’ll tell you this: I sample salted caramel ice cream of any moniker pretty much anywhere I find it, and this version has the most intense flavor. Blissfully intense. Still, the texture is light and creamy, almost frothy.

This and all the L’Artisan del Glaces ice creams are made right on the premises. Artisan, in more-than-massive quantities. Hey, it works. Indulge!

Boy do I recommend this ice cream.

Eat enthusiastically,

Rona

www.ronarecommends.com

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My Newest Burger Crush

I finally made my way to Oblivion Taproom, which looks like a biker bar but serves scratch-made foods. (Well, mostly. But let’s focus on those burgers.) Oh my those hamburgers!

Oblivion burger

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Take a Look at this Gorgeous Chile Relleno. Stunning!

Chile rellenos is one of those simple Mexican dishes with a mighty flavor. It’s a roasted spicy green pepper stuffed with cheese and topped with a red sauce, usually. It looks as blob on a plate with a splash of color on top.

Paxia uptakes its Mexican fare, and its chile relleno is a prime example. Look at this. It is gorgeous!

Paxia's chile relleno

Paxia’s chile relleno

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Sisters in Crime Writers Blog Hop. What Is Your Writing Process?

Lady bloggers are cross-promoting, so my long-time writer friend Laurie Bain Wilson has nominated me. Laurie is a travel writer; a mystery writer with some Murder She Wrote books to her name, and a baseball guru. Take a look at her kid-lit baseball book, Catcher in the Sky. She’s also the daughter of the guy who wrote Coffee, Tea or Me?, although that was a secret for most of her childhood. She talks about that here. Continue reading

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Dear Chef, You Know Beans About What’s Truly Vegetarian

Today’s text from my friend Wendy was about Shake Shack. Shake Shack lies! she says. The gourmet-burger chain’s vegetarian burger isn’t really vegetarian.

Wendy sleuths out seemingly meat-free meals all over Orlando. She calls or visits to ask probing questions. Often, the answers lead her to denounce the restaurant as not serving proper vegetarian meals.

I balk, even cringe, when Wendy confronts staffers, but she has a point. At Shake Shack, for instance, she cites two crimes against her diet. First, Shake Shack grills its ‘Shroom Continue reading

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Six New Flavors: 2014 Epcot Food & Wine Festival

We gallivant–or schlep, weather-depending–around the Epcot Food & Wine Festival every year. Themed marketplaces sell piping hot foods from several different countries. What’s more, complementary wines and beers enhance each snack with satisfying finesse.

Epcot Food & Wine Festival logo

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Orlando’s Magical Dining Month: Le Coq au Vin

Put on your heels and dust off that credit card. It’s time to dine out in Orlando.

September is Magical Dining Month here. That means dozens of restaurants offer three-course dinners for $33 every night they’re open. Some of the menus give tremendous value, which is why locals find themselves sampling eateries all over town.

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Vote for Orlando’s Best Restaurants — Now, Please

Love breakfast at your corner diner, the waitress at a particular Italian restaurant or the happy hour specials at an Asian-fusion place? Let your neighbors know. Orlando Life Magazine‘s Silver Spoon Awards issue is in production, and it invites the community to vote for its No. 1 spots in the Readers Choice poll. Here’s the link.

http://orlando-life.com/content/silver-spoon-2014.

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Outside the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

We were lucky enough to be in Edinburgh the first three days of its annual Fringe Festival. Without going too wacky telling you how amazing the entire event is, I’ll just say that 3,000 plays, concerts, comic acts and more are offered all over the city during August. We saw a wrenching drama, an inspiring Capella group, and good and awful comedy.

Edingburgh Fringe Festival

 

(I do not know why this and art and one photo are flush left. They’re centered like the others inside WordPress.)

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Chip, Chip, Hooray!

I spotted pickle-flavored potato chips in London in 1994, and was so intrigued that I remember the siting still.

American chip-makers have gotten creative in the last few months, placing flavors as odd as cappuccino on supermarket shelves.

Scotland beats that. Not the oddity, maybe. Cappuccino-flavored potato chips sound offensive. But in terms of variety, Scotland’s “crisp” manufacturers are pretty fearless. Here’s an assortment of what I eyed last week.

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Don’t Touch that Plate!

It happened again on Saturday night. I was sitting in a restaurant with my husband, chatting and enjoying my salad.

Salad

Suddenly a waiter swooped in and took Hub’s plate away. The server stayed around a bit, sweeping crumbs off the table.

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In My Backyard? Yessum. In Seminole County

Last week, I dumped my clients for three days and joined a media tour of Seminole County. I’d always thought of Seminole as a bedroom community just north of Orange County, home to Orlando and Walt Disney World. It is that, but it’s also a multifaceted destination with natural attractions and art. Continue reading

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Immerse Yourself in Nature: Geneva Wilderness Tour Area

Under an hour from Disney World, the Geneva Wilderness Area is a retreat from civilization. It’s 180 acres of pretty scenery, including mixed hardwood swamp, mesic flatwoods, scrubby flatwoods and a lake system. I don’t know what all that means; it’s mostly from the website. But I know this: It’s beautiful. And, it’s adjacent to other wildlife areas like the Little Big Econ State Reserve. Continue reading

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Call It Quirky. Call It Pretty. It’s Danville

“Not another hotel ballroom!” brides and meeting planners beg. “Please!” If you’re looking for a gathering spot that’s entirely different from any you’ve experienced before, take a tour of Danville. Its own website calls Danville a bed-and-breakfast, and its two bedrooms are popular choices on AirBnB, but that’s not the point. Danville is an events venue. And, as we writers joked during a recent media tour there, we never use the word “unique,” yet Danville is, indeed, unique. (Ach! The exacting editorial elite will come crashing through the sky and beat my keyboard into mush! Visit Danville, I’ll challenge them. Then tell me “unique” doesn’t apply.) Continue reading

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Here’s a Sneak Peek at the Ritz’s Highball & Harvest

Like all Ritz-Carltons, Orlando’s luxe hotel is known for its fine dining. The food will still be fine at the RC Grande Lakes’ newest restaurant, but a different kind of fine. Instead of frou-frou, the new restaurant, Highball & Harvest, will go for earthy. The menu will be thoughtfully created and the foodstuffs carefully sourced. But the offerings will be relaxed, more like a farm-to-table restaurant and less like a sophisticated coffee-shop-slash-steakhouse. The dining room tables will be stained hickory. Continue reading

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A Manly Meal, an Italian Feast, and Dinner with the Philharmonic — Have We Got Dining Deals for You

Orlando — Compensate for the searing summer sun by having truly good food at a lower price than usual. These three so-called Dining Deals offer value at places with great food. I talked about them recently on Orlando’s Fox 35 with David Didzunas, executive chef of the Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport, and anchor Lauren Johnson. Here’s the clip. Continue reading

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B Resort Orlando — Value-Priced Chic at Disney World

Orlando will welcome B Resort next week, a Lake Buena Vista property a short walk from Downtown Disney. B Resorts are cheap-chic. In other words, they have a suave, contemporary flair, yet they’re midpriced. The decor is a spiffy, bold white palette with vibrant splashes of color. Continue reading

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Craft Cocktails, Orlando-Made

“We would love to hear your opinion of our drinks,” said an email that came through my website. “We are a small business here in Florida that is providing a culinary experience by way of our line of premium cocktail mixers.”

And so I came into possession of three colorful bottles of Bungalow 23 cocktail mixes, each in trendy, inventive flavor:

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An Elegant Food & Wine Experience — at Publix

A spiffy contemporary kitchen with several work stations. Tables set with linens and sparkling wine glasses. Chefs in crisp whites offering warm welcomes. You’d expect this kind of polish at a professional cooking school, maybe, or a high-end restaurant’s wine-pairing repast. But this is an educational four-course dinner at Publix.

 

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Gear Up for Orlando’s 2014 Chef’s Gala

Orlando — Chefs are cooking and vintners are pouring at Chef’s Gala, an annual food-and-wine extravaganza. Attendees don cocktail dresses and heels, or jackets (don’t worry gents, you can leave your ties at home). They peruse silent-auction items, then sample all the appetizer-size creations they want from more than 20 local restaurants. Paired wines are poured generously.  It’s fun, and the proceeds help our neighbors in need.

 

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Three Orlando-Area Chefs Are James Beard Award Nominees

Chefs of three Central Florida restaurants are up for the James Beard Foundation‘s Best Chef: South award for 2014. They’ve all been nominated before, as have some others, who didn’t make the list this year. No one from the area has yet snagged the actual title, or others like Best New Restaurant or Outstanding Bar Program.


Here’s a hearty congratulations to the nominees:

James and Julie Petrakis, The Ravenous Pig and Cask & Larder, Winter Park

 

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