One Delicious Dish: French Onion Tater Tots

You’ll be frustrated by the end of this blog. You’ll want very much to eat these so-called French Onion Tater Tots.

French Onion tater tots at Golden Oak

French onion tater tots at Golden Oak

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Why Seasons 52 Upped Its Calories and Lists Them

The cyberworld buzzed yesterday when I wrote that Seasons 52 upped its calories on some menu items and lists exactly how fattening each item is right on the menu. Here’s that blog, with details.

Why Seasons 52 Upped Its Calories and Lists Them

So I was pleasantly surprised today to hear from Rich Jeffers, a company spokesperson. Continue reading

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Seasons 52 Has Changed. I Don’t Like It.

Good heavens, Seasons 52. What did you do? What’s with the 890-calorie steak dinner?

The Maui Tuna Crunch at Seasons 52 is a generous entree salad that comes in at 390 calories.

The Maui Tuna Crunch at Seasons 52 is a generous entree salad that comes in at 390 calories.

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Pretty (and) Tasty: The Foods at United Way Chef’s Gala 2015

Looky here, how pretty. This is what to expect of the foods at the United Way Chef’s Gala 2015.

Foods at United Way Chef's Gala 2015

Ghanaian chocolate and passion fruit milk tart by Pastry Chef Amanda Lauder of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Bakery.

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March into March with Four Orlando Dining Deals

Even the most bustling restaurants nudge up business a tad by offering dining deals during otherwise sluggish times. Here are four promotions available right now, each at restaurants I hand-selected because the food is superb. I shared details about all four Orlando dining deals on Fox 35’s “Good Day.” Here’s the video:

Rona Recommends … Dining Deals

Pintxos at Capa, one of four Orlando dining deals

Pintxos at Capa

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Hummus Alert! Healthy Meals at Animal Kingdom

Panicked, they query me via email, Twitter, and food boards: “I’m coming to Orlando. I’m going to Disney World. Are there any healthful/vegetarian/vegan meals for me?” Yes yes yes, whichever you seek. In fact, strolling through Animal Kingdom yesterday, I randomly came across all these healthful, vegetarian and/or vegan fast-food menu boards without even looking for them. You can eat healthy meals at Animal Kingdom.

Healthy meals at Animal Kingdom

Falafal and hummus in Asia

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Tour Mount Dora Lakes on a Tiny Two-Seater Boat

Here’s a new way to enjoy Central Florida’s temperate winter weather: Tour Mount Dora lakes on a tiny two-seater boat.

Tour Mount Dora lakes on a tiny two-seater boat.

Touring Mount Dora’s lakes and canals

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Win Two Tickets to Fresh from the Field

Win two tickets to Fresh from the Field, an over-the-top alfresco dinner held on a farm.

Win Two Tickets to Fresh from the Field

Win two tickets to Fresh from the Field

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One Delicious Dish: Flowersprouts at The Porch

Eat this: Flowersprouts at The Porch, a laid-back spot in Winter Park.

Flowersprouts at The Porch

These “flowersprouts” are a toss of brussels sprouts and cauliflower in a pancetta vinaigrette.

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One Delicious Dish: Pork Hash at Raglan Road

Do you see those little squares, the ones on the right of the plate? They’re Irish enchantment, going by the playful name Pork Hash Tagged. And they’re on the newest breakfast menu at Raglan Road. Take-away: Order the pork hash at Raglan Road.

Pork Hash at Raglan Road

Pork Hash Tagged at Raglan Road

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One Delicious Dish: Grumpy’s Homemade Ice Cream

9 a.m is a bit early for an ice cream cone, sure. But strolling around the Clermont farmers market on Sunday morning, I came across Grumpy’s Homemade Ice Cream.

Grumpys Homemade Ice Cream

The owner of Grumpy’s Homemade Ice Cream

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One Delicious Dish: Lobster Sliders at the Palm Bar

Eager to re-try The Palm, Orlando’s outpost of the New York-based steakhouse, without spending too much, I met a friend for happy hour last night. A savvy bartender greeted me in the snug bar area, where PrimeTime Prime Bites are served at half price from 5 to 7 nightly. The highlight: lobster sliders at the Palm bar.

Lobster sliders at The Palm bar

Lobster sliders at The Palm bar

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Give Pollo Tropical Another Try

I’m the last one to write respectful words about fast food chain restaurants, except maybe Chipotle on a charitable day. But I revisited Pollo Tropical yesterday, sampling new foods within the company’s revamped decor. Honestly, I liked what I ate. Give Pollo Tropical another try.

A stylish take on palm trees at Pollo Tropical. Give Pollo Tropical Another Try.

A stylish take on palm trees at Pollo Tropical.

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Florida Cracker Cuisine–I Dare You!

I didn’t go for it. I hope you do. Tell me how it tastes: Florida Cracker cuisine.

Florida Cracker cuisine

Mmm-mmm. An alligator frankfurter topped with chili.

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Orlando Chefs Tap Mickey D’s at Upscale Fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House

You kind of feel humbled on their behalf. At Appetite for the Arches, Orlando chefs prepare bite-size foods–elegant hors d’oeuvres–using McDonald’s ingredients. It’s a playful yet upscale fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House.

Upscale Fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House

Here’s a snapshot from last year’s Appetite for the Arches. The event is a culinary fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House.

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Radishes with Smoked Crème Fraiche: A Tale of Capa, Orlando’s New Spanish Steakhouse

Look at this. Just look at this. It’s four types of radishes on top of smoked crème fraiche–ya! smoked crème frache!–with a bit of pomegranate laced in. Hint: We’re talking about Capa, Orlando’s new Spanish steakhouse.

Rábano: four types of radishes over smoked crème fraiche with pomegranate. Capa, Orlando's new Spanish steakhouse

Rábano: four types of radishes over smoked crème fraiche with pomegranate.

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Steak with a Florida Twist at A Land Remembered

Every upscale steakhouse has a shtick to set it apart from competitors. In Orlando,  A Land Remembered embraces Old Florida. The name comes from Patrick Smith‘s novel, which I happen to adore. And some menu items reflect the state’s old ways. Let’s call the offerings steak with a Florida twist.

Steak with a Florida Twist at A Land Remembered

The butter patties at A Land Remembered are shaped like alligators.

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Yet Another Superb Vegetarian Entree at Disney World

Disney World is a vegetarian’s dream vacation destination, since even quick-service counters have at least one meat-free, and often delicious, offering. What that megapark complex can do with fast-food quinoa or salmon, and with table-service tofu (mint-coconut chutney!) … . At the brand new Italian restaurant Trattoria al Forno, I found yet another superb vegetarian entree at Disney World.

Campanelle with green beans, roasted pototes and Genovese pesto, a vegetarian entree at Disney World

Campanelle with green beans, roasted potatoes, and Genovese pesto

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A Spicy Fruit Plate at the Charlotte Airport

Tropical fruit with a zesty, spicy mix on top–now that’s an airport snack I can respect.

The "plato de frutas" at Tequileria

The “plato de frutas” at Tequileria

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Zaza-The Only Way to Eat at Orlando Airport

Trapped in Terminal B for two hours, I could buy lunch from national chains or other national chains. Manchu Wok. Ruby Tuesday. Ick. Then I spotted Zaza. Zaza Modern Cuban Diner is a frill-free local place with two restaurants in addition to its modest airport counter.

The mojo chicken sandwich from Zaza.

The mojo chicken sandwich from Zaza.

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Have an Interactive Animal Experience at Giraffe Ranch

I’ve written extensively about Giraffe Ranch for magazines, and I still can’t get enough of this place. It’s not a zoo, really. Visits are more interactive than that. Guests take jeep or camel “safaris” to get close to animals. The owners share incredibly rich detail about the animals, their habits, and their environment. For extra fees–and most are worth it–folks also get to feed grapes to ring-tailed lemurs and sweet potato to rhinos. All visitors are invited to share lettuce and leaves with giraffes.

Some of the friendly animals at Giraffe Ranch

Some of the friendly animals at Giraffe Ranch

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Authentic New York Pizza at Corelli

We search and search for “real” pizza in Orlando. We plummet with disappointment, time and again. Not so last night–in Clermont, Florida, of all places. In an L-shaped strip mall anchored by a Kmart, we were bounced back to our roots for an hour at Corelli, a glorified pizza place owned by folks from the Bronx. Yes, neighbors, you can find authentic New York pizza Corelli.

Authentic New York Pizza at Corelli

Authentic New York Pizza at Corelli

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A Chinese Lobster Dinner for $14 at Ming’s Bistro

What a find! Last night, I happened into Ming’s Bistro and discovered the restaurant is having a “seasonal promotion”: a Chinese lobster dinner for $14 (well, $13.99).

At Ming's Bistro, this seaonal Chinese lobster dinner costs only $14.

At Ming’s Bistro, this seasonal lobster dinner costs only $14.

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Sample the Superb Gelato at Rome’s Flavours

I’d essentially given up on gelato. Here in Orlando, even the so-called artisan vendors serve unsatisfactory Italian ice cream. The textures and flavors are uninspiring–not nearly as creamy and deep as what I recall from glorious afternoon treats in Florence. Yesterday, I happened up on the superb gelato at Rome’s Flavours.

Superb gelato at Rome's Flavours

Dark chocolate and hazelnut gelatos at Rome’s Flavours

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A Spud-tastic Meal at Ellie Lou’s

It’s nuthin’ fancy, Ellie Lou’s Brews & BBQ, so I overlooked it for months. Down-home decor, counter service … . Then I took home a turkey sandwich. It was a solid, flavorful, textured mass of turkey, not that processed pseudo-poultry trash most Orlando restaurants proffer. That was lunch. A few weeks later, I went back for dinner. Guess what? I had a spud-tastic meal at Ellie Lou’s.

The BBQ Baker at Ellie Lou's

The BBQ Baker at Ellie Lou’s

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Dig Into British Pub Fare at Leaky Cauldron

“The Codfather.” That’s what fellow fisherman call the single guy who hauls in fresh cod for Leaky Cauldron’s fish and chips every day. Universal Orlando‘s relationship with this one man represents the restaurant’s commitment to serving commendable food: The fish is caught and shipped daily, meaning the battered filet on your plate is, as one foodservice manager says, “never more than 36 hours old.” I think you’ll like the British pub fare at Leaky Cauldron.

British Pub Fare at Leaky Cauldron

The Ploughman’s Platter can be created for groups from two to eight.

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Have a Ritzy, Glitzy New Year’s Eve in Orlando

Break out the sparkly cocktail attire, the glittering jewelry, and those extra high heels. New Year’s Eve warrants a big-time celebration. On Sunday morning, December 21, I shared on Fox 35’s Good Day details on where to have a ritzy, glitzy New Year’s Eve in Orlando. Chefs of three top-tier restaurants were with me, each showing off one especially tempting dish that will be served.

Bull & Bear Steakhouse Have a Ritzy, Glitzy New Year's Eve in Orlando

The Bull & Bear Steakhouse is hosting a ritzy, glitzy New Year’s Eve event .

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Join Top Disney Chefs at a Field-to-Feast Dinner

Burger-and-fries, my tuckus. Disney World has truly good meals at its parks and hotels–if you’re willing to bypass the beef patties. Customers in the know seek out the complex’s better meals, those prepared by “real” chefs–the types who might otherwise be cooking in renowned big-city restaurants. Here’s your opportunity to join top Disney chefs at a field-to-feast dinner.

Join Disney's Top Chefs at a Field-to-Feast Dinner

Field to Feast, an alfresco culinary event

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Try Arepas El Cacao for Venezuelan Street Foods in Orlando

A Venezuelan family just moved in next door. Within 15 minutes, I had the well-heeled woman with an impressive corporate career bubbling enthusiastically about where she finds the flavors of home. Her choice: Arepas El Cacao for Venezuelan street foods in Orlando.

It’s no fancy spot–just a spiffy, upbeat self-service joint turning out abundantly stuffed, flavorful versions of snacks one would pick up for a quick bite in this South American country. So yesterday I tried Arepas El Cacao. The restaurant near Universal Orlando is a one-time food truck vendor that’s now part of a local four-unit enterprise.

Arepas El Cacao for Venezuelan street foods in Orlando

Self-serve sauces at Arepas El Cacao, a Venezuelan restaurant. The flavors are (L-R) German, pink, and garlic.

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Why Is Mamak So Much Like Hawkers?

Mamak is a terrific new place to eat Asian street food. It’s a handsome spot with an expansive menu of small dishes meant to share, from pad Thai to coconut shrimp. Yet I’m stumped. The menu–not just the offerings, but also the execution–is nearly a duplicate of the one at Hawkers, a nearby establishment. Why is Mamak so much like Hawkers?

Korean bulgogi beef skewers at Mamak, a restaurant featuring Asian street food. Why is Mamak so much like Hawkers?

Korean bulgogi beef skewers at Mamak, a restaurant featuring Asian street food. Why is Mamak so much like Hawkers?

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