A Wise Guide to Magical Dining Month Orlando

Though it’s not technically September yet, Magical Dining Month Orlando is underway. Get out of the house now! Go! Eat! Don’t wait! Sponsored by Visit OrlandoMagical Dining Month Orlando involves 70+ restaurants–many of them terrific–serving three-course dinners for $33.

Magical Dining Month Orlando Chorizo-spiced duck carpaccio with friseé, piquillo vinaigrette, cinnamon pepitas, and and house-pickled onion. <a href="http://txokoskitchen.com/" target="_blank">Txokos</a>

Chorizo-spiced duck carpaccio with friseé, piquillo vinaigrette, cinnamon pepitas, and and house-pickled onion. Txokos

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Dining Deals, Florida travel, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Orlando travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Try It: Two Chefs Seafood

I knew Bernard Carmouche was one of the two culinarians behind Two Chefs Seafood. He’d made great meals at Emeril’s Orlando, in my experience, so I trotted over recently to see what he’s doing now that he’s untethered from celebity chef Emeril Lagasse.

Sea scallops with parsnip puree and porcini coulis at Two Chefs Seafood

Sea scallops with parsnip puree and porcini coulis

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Spanish Flair at Tapa Toro

If this blog accepted traditional advertisements, I wouldn’t be able to say this: Most meals on Orlando’s International Drive stink. It’s a tourist strip aimed at families and conventioneers. The few restaurants that aren’t chain outlets are mediocre still. One prime exception has long been the raucous Greek restaurant Taverna Opa, which happens to have excellent food. Now the same family has opened a Spanish eatery nearby, Tapa Toro. So far, the flavors are just as good.

The paella bar at Tapa Toro

The paella bar at Tapa Toro

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Events venues, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | Tagged , | Leave a comment

2015 Orlando Taste of the Nation

Share Our Strength helps gets food to hungry people all over the country. You can eat really, really well Saturday night while supporting the effort. Here in Orlando, the local chapter raises money in part by hosting an annual mega-feast called Orlando Taste of the Nation. More than 40 local restaurants from family-friendly to ultra-fine will hand out small portions of one specially prepared dish. Spirits will flow, and a silent auction will bring in extra cash.

2015 Orlando Taste of the Nation

Hamachi y Pato from Cuba Libre: sliced yellowtail and duck prosciutto, grapefruit salad, ginger cordial, yazu and honey vinaigrette, and sakura cress

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Events, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

One Delicious Dish: Pancetta and Cannellini Bean Soup

I’m having soup for lunch today. Not just any soup. This is a pancetta and cannellini bean soup, and it is one of the most intensely flavored, robust, satisfying soups I have ever had. That sounds over the top, I know. I’m embarrassed to be so effusive. But this soup, sold by chef Ryan Freelove of Market to Table Cuisine, deserves superlatives.

Pancetta and Cannellini Bean Soup

Here’s a pouch of Market to Table‘s pancetta and cannellini bean soup.

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Healthful eating, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

One Delicious Dish: Sapporo Ramen

I was cranky and yearning for a lunch of fresh scrambled unwashed, multi-colored eggs from the dozen I’d just bought at the Winter Garden Farmers Market. But I had an obstacle the size of Japan. Two nights before, Ricky Ly, the Asian-American food blogger behind Tasty Chomps, had told The Hub and I about Sapporo Ramen, claiming its noodle soups rival those in Tokyo. I had zero chance of keeping my foodie-man away from this restaurant for even one more meal period.

Miso ramen at Sapporo Ramen

Miso ramen

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

2015 Epcot Food and Wine Festival – a Sneak Peek

With Florida’s sun blazing, it seems early to contemplate the 2015 Epcot Food and Wine Festival, which falls in fall, when the temperatures cool. Yet Epcot’s culinary staff has been planning since the last festival ended. Recently members of Tables in Wonderland got to sample many of the 20 new food and 20 new beverage items that will be part of the multi-week, multi-venue menu of this annual extravaganza–which happens to be in its 20th year. Here are some highlights, mostly from the international marketplaces.

2015 Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Pork spareribs with red wine and fennel, served with cheesy grits

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Disney World, Florida travel, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Orlando travel, Travel | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Try Disney-Style African Street Foods at Harambe Market

Brilliant as always with its theming, when Disney opened an open-air food court at Animal Kingdom, it didn’t just build a food court. Instead Disney built Harambe Market. This simple spot for light(ish) meals is a highly themed 200-seat area with four counter-service windows, each specializing in a couple of food items–more like food trucks than individual restaurants.

Harambe Market

Harambe Market

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Disney World, Healthful eating, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Orlando travel, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two Delicious Dishes: Sushi Pop and Pig Floyd’s

I dine out frequently, and I snap photos of nearly every new dish just in case it’s so incredibly satisfying that I feel compelled to share its glory on this blog. Have you seen a post like that? Nope. Not since April. I’ve had good, but not unbelievably flavorful, foods, and that’s my standard. Then, this weekend, nirvana! Here are two crazy-delicious creations that made my July 4 holiday reason to celebrate. They’re from Sushi Pop and Pig Floyd’s Urban Barbakoa.

Sushi Pop and Pig Floyd's

Pig Floyd’s Matahambre aka “Hunger Killer!”

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Healthful eating, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Three More Great Beach Reads for Summer 2015

I’m on a roll, fellow readers. After a long spring of disappointing novels and nonfiction, I fell into three can’t-put-downers in a row. They’re not beach reads, per se; those might be a smidgen junkier. I was completely absorbed by each of these, though. The plot and the writing beckoned so strongly that I choose book time on the sofa over essentially every other activity. Just imagine the fun I would have had reading them on a chaise longue, under a shade umbrella, on the beach. Here are three more great beach reads for summer 2015.

Continue reading

Posted in Books | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What a Rush! Try Escapology Orlando

The first time I visited Escapology Orlando, the escape-room enterprise hosted me because I was doing research for a magazine article. The second time, I paid my way because I wanted a bonding experience for my family. Success! My 18- and 22-year-old budding engineers had a grand time. So when I was invited to try out Antidote, the new game set to debut June 26, 2015, I scurried back to Orlando‘s International Drive for Challenge No. 3. What fun! I highly recommend Escapology Orlando.

Escapology Orlando

Continue reading

Posted in Events venues, Orlando travel, Teenagers, Travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Three Beach Reads for Summer 2015

I was so lucky to have tripped into The Vacationers a few weeks ago that I figured I’d reached my limit of beach reads for summer 2015. Smart yet absorbing, light yet not junky. Success! (I wrote about it here.) Yet I’ve been on a roll — a stop-life-I-must-keep-clutching-this-book-to-my-chest roll. An I’ll-stay-on-the-treadmill-so-I-can-start-another-chapter roll. There ARE good books out there between all the dullards.

Three More Beach Reads for 2015

Shotgun Lovesongs — One of three beach reads for 2015

Continue reading

Posted in Books | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Like Boys’ Toys? Lodge at Legoland Hotel

Good luck getting to your room at the new Legoland Hotel, parents. Book the room, for sure. Allot loads of time in the hotel. Then prepare to wait … and wait … and wait … because your kids will be too engaged to even get into the elevator. And you still won’t be close to that bed.

The main Lego pit at the Legoland Hotel Florida

The main Lego pit at the Legoland Hotel Florida

Continue reading

Posted in Florida travel, Orlando restaurants, Orlando travel, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vote Today! Orlando Restaurants in Zagat

It’s time! Zagat is putting together it’s next America’s Top Restaurants book. We need your input.

Orlando Restaurants in Zagat

Zagat — America’s Top Restaurants

Continue reading

Posted in Books, Dining, Disney World, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Orlando travel | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Selfies Galore at SEA LIFE Orlando

It’s fitting that “selfies” and “sea life” share so many letters, because the new SEA LIFE Orlando aquarium is designed for taking photos — of yourself with the underwater creatures.

SEA LIFE Orlando

See that? That’s a person inside a transparent bubble within an aquarium at SEA LIFE Orlando.

Continue reading

Posted in Florida travel, Orlando restaurants, Orlando travel, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

One Delicious Dish: Ricotta Gnudi at Boca

Boca, the kitchen-bar-market in Winter Park, has a new chef–and that’s good news, since the place was more about vibe than food. Now it’s worth the trip for meals.

Ricotta gnudi at Boca

Ricotta gnudi at Boca

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Is This Europe or Is It Central Florida? Streamsong Resort

I would have accepted a media offer to Streamsong Resort if it were anything short of a homeless shelter, probably. I write about Orlando travel frequently. The more I experience, the more tips I have for visitors, so off I go when invited. I did not expect Streamsong to be outstanding.

Sotto Terra Ristorante at Streamsong Resort

Sotto Terra Ristorante at Streamsong Resort (photo from Facebook)

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Florida travel, Healthful eating, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Orlando travel, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

I Loved This Book: The Vacationers

How ridiculous is that? I picked up this book before I’d meant to and ended up adoring every page. You must read The Vacationers.

Continue reading

Posted in Books, Parenting, Teenagers, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Check Out the Bill Pouch at Outpost Neighborhood Kitchen

We had to smile as we finished lunch yesterday. We were smitten with the bill pouch at Outpost Neighborhood Kitchen.

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Introducing Swine and Sons

It’s unprofessional, my giddy response to Swine and Sons. Yet at first peek I’m smitten with Winter Park‘s new sort-of restaurant, a take-out shop by the owners of Cask & Larder and The Ravenous Pig. Disclaimer: The name is really Swine & Sons. I changed the “&” to an “and” for SEO purposes.

Housemade condiments at Swine and Sons

Housemade condiments at Swine and Sons

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Florida travel, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Orlando travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

Continue reading

Posted in Cooking, Dining, Disney World, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Dieting, Dining, Healthful eating, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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.

Continue reading

Posted in Dieting, Dining, Events venues, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

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.

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Dining Deals, Disney World, Events, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Dining Deals, Disney World, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Disney World, Florida travel, Healthful eating, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Orlando travel, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

Continue reading

Posted in Florida travel, Orlando travel, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Dining Deals, Disney World, Events, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 36 Comments

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.

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Healthful eating, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

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

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Disney World, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Dining Deals, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Universal Orlando, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Healthful eating, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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.

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Florida travel, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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.

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Disney World, Events, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Disney World, Events venues, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Travel, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Events venues, Florida travel, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Disney World, Events venues, Healthful eating, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Continue reading

Posted in Airport food, Dining, Healthful eating, North Carolina, North Carolina, Orlando restaurants, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Continue reading

Posted in Florida travel, Orlando restaurants | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Continue reading

Posted in Florida travel, Travel | Tagged | Leave a comment

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

Continue reading

Posted in Orlando restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Dining Deals, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Florida travel, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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.

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Florida travel, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Travel, Universal Orlando | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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 .

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Dining Deals, Disney World, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Disney World, Events venues, Florida travel, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Florida travel, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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?

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

See the Sweet Gingerbread Village at Caribe Royale

Orlando’s hotels tend to go all-out with their gingerbread houses every year. This winter, be sure to see the creative gingerbread village at Caribe Royale, a hotel near Disney World.

gingerbread village at Caribe Royal

The nine-house gingerbread village at Caribe Royale. Photo by Brian Minnich.

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Disney World, Events venues, Florida travel, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A New Seasonal Menu at Paris Bistro

With its girly upholstered banquettes and intimate setting, Winter Park’s Paris Bistro is a surprising, almost sensual, retreat tucked away from the busy shopping district. Now the restaurant has revamped its menu, keeping the classics, slashing off several entrees, and adding at least half a dozen autumn items. Welcome to thew new seasonal menu at Paris Bistro.

Parmesan-crusted chicken Dijon is a star on the new seasonal menu at Paris Bistro

Parmesan-crusted chicken Dijon is a star on the new seasonal menu at Paris Bistro

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Introducing an iPhone App for the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts

I’m smitten with Orlando’s new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, with its two magnificent, and distinct, theaters. Now the state-of-the-art facility has introduced its own iPhone app. That sounds dull and self-serving, I know, but read on. This free download may become a true helpmate.

iPhone App for the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts

This is the iPhone app’s homepage. Note how clean the layout is.

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Dining Deals, Events venues, Florida travel, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Artegon Marketplace – Riches, Curiosities and Rubbish

It’s an intriguing place, Orlando’s new Artegon Marketplace, and I hope it works. For now, the artisan-oriented destination area looks promising but iffy.

The massive mall, as it develops, will be circled with huge business like the existing Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, mammoth restaurants like Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill, and cavernous experiential areas such as, if I’m reading the website correctly, a Sky Zone indoor trampoline park.

Artegon Marketplace

This is the entrance to Artegon Marketplace.

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Disney World, Events venues, Florida travel, Orlando restaurants, Parenting, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

American Gymkhana – Orlando Indian Food Goes Upscale

It’s not fair to write about American Gymkhana, really. The upscale Indian restaurant on Orlando’s Restaurant Row is brand new, which means it has kinks not yet untangled. I’d never report back so quickly for a full-on print magazine review.

American Gymkhana logo

American Gymkhana Orlando modern Indian restaurant

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Simple Venezuelan Meals at Orlando’s Q’Kenan Restaurant

Here’s an intriguing new Orlando discovery:  Q’Kenan, a Venezuelan restaurant I really like.

Pork arepa at Q'Kenan Venezuelan restaurant

Pork arepa

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Dining Deals, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grande Lakes’ Eggs-cellent Adventure

The chefs at Orlando’s Grande Lakes hotel complex have aggressively sought out fresh local ingredients for years. Now they’re collecting eggs laid by their own chickens.

Primo Chef-Owner Melissa Kelly and Lake Meadow Naturals' Dale Volkert welcome the chickens that lay eggs

Primo Chef-Owner Melissa Kelly and Lake Meadow Naturals’ Dale Volkert

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Events venues, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Steak Frites, American-Style

Steak frites basically means steak-and-fries, and it’s a homey dish served in French bistros. In this country, as in France, the steak is usually a thin, tougher though flavorful cut of beef — far different than American-style meat-‘n’-taters.

Hamilton’s Kitchen upgrades an already fine classic. Here, the steak is a thick 8-ounce top sirloin “coulotte”–tender and wonderful tasting.

steak frites american style

Steak frites with truffle fries, roasted garlic herb aioli, and charred broccolini

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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. Nuh-uh. The pasta was red, maybe magenta. And the flavor was kind of sweet, though those white shavings of what I believe were cheese grounded the sweetness so it was intriguing, not overbearing.

Red pasta Prato

Prato’s rosemary tonnarelli

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What a Way to Dine with Disney – Through the Decades

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.

Dining with Disney through the Decades

Jell-O cups

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Dining Deals, Disney World, Events venues, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Heavenly Flan

The original Heavenly Flan

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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?

potato chip crusted chocolate cake

Soco’s potato chip-crusted chocolate cake

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Florida travel, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Travel, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Soco Serves 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 which, to me, is Orlando's best vegetarian entree

Soco’s chicken-fried cauliflower steak which, to me, is Orlando’s best vegetarian entree

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Bubble Tea Bonanza at Chewy Boba Company

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 at Chewy Boba Company

Peach tea with boba at Chewy Boba Company

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Florida travel, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Travel, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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 from Peak Season Pops.

Salted-chocolate ice pop from Peak Season Pops

Salted-chocolate ice pop from Peak Season Pops

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Travel, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Live Like a Food Tourist at the Waldorf Orlando

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

IMG_0902

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!

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Dining Deals, Disney World, Florida travel, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Challah of All Challahs from Ooga Ooga

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 from Ooga Ooga

Challah 1 from Ooga Ooga

Continue reading

Posted in Cooking, Dining, Jewish, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Fleur de sel ice cream from L'Artisan del Glaces in Epcot's France pavilion

Fleur de sel ice cream from L’Artisan del Glaces in Epcot’s France pavilion

Continue reading

Posted in Disney World, Florida travel, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

My Newest Burger Crush – Oblivion Taprooom

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 hamburgers.) Oh my those burgers!

Burger Oblivion Taproom

Burger at Oblivion Taproom

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Food bloggers, Journalism, Orlando restaurants, Parenting | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

Posted in Dining, Orlando restaurants, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Dining Deals, Florida travel, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

magicaldining_header

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Dining Deals, Florida travel, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

SilverSpoonBanner

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Disney World, Florida travel, Orlando dining, Parenting | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Outside the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

We were lucky enough to be in Scotland the first three days of its annual Edinburgh 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

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.)

Continue reading

Posted in Scotland, Travel | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

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.

Roast ham flavored potato chips

Roast ham flavored potato chips

Continue reading

Posted in Scotland, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Don't touch that plate!

Suddenly a waiter swooped in and took Hub’s plate away. The server stayed around a bit, sweeping crumbs off the table. It took tremendous self-control for me not to grab him by the shirt and holler, “Don’t touch that plate!”

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Food bloggers, Manners, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

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

Posted in Disney World, Florida travel, Orlando restaurants, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Immerse Yourself in Nature: Geneva Wilderness 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

Posted in Florida travel, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

Posted in Orlando restaurants | 2 Comments

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

Posted in Dining, Florida travel, Orlando dining, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

Posted in Dining, Dining Deals, Florida travel, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Disney World, Events venues, Florida travel, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

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:

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | Leave a comment

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.

 

Continue reading

Posted in Cooking, Dining, Florida travel, homemaking, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Travel | 2 Comments

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.

 

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Dining Deals, Disney World, Florida travel, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Travel | Leave a comment

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

 

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | 3 Comments

Hearty Winter Meals – Yes, Even in Orlando

If we can’t fuel up over a bowl of steamy, solid, soul-comforting foods in February, when can we?

These three restaurants do an especially good job with wintry entrees. I’d sure rather eat them without having to shovel snow first. Wouldn’t you? Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Florida travel, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Travel | 2 Comments

So Now I’m Telling You to Eat McDonald’s Food … sort of

I felt sorry for the best chefs in town, truth be told. They
were tasked with creating appetizers so delicious that folks would spend $250
to eat their creations, along with others, at a gala event. The catch? Some
ingredients had to be the same as those used in the kitchens of the McDonald’s
fast food chain.
Continue reading

Posted in Food bloggers, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | 3 Comments

I Beg You, Windows 8.1. Bring Freecell Back. Please!

It’s not an addiction, not really, my compulsion to play Freecell. Just like Facebook — or Pinterest, or Progress Book, or my online library account — Freecell is simply a distraction. It’s a tool for procrastination.

Continue reading

Posted in Procrastinatoin | 2 Comments

All I Want for Christmas … Is to be Served in a Restaurant

 
Roasts, nogs, chestnuts … mess. Maybe you’re exhausted by holiday prep and prefer to dine civilly this year, seated at a restaurant table, with prepared foods delivered to you, the clean-up not your concern. Here are three tempting options. And here’s a video of Rona talking about all three with Lauren Johnson of Fox 35.

Continue reading

Posted in Dining Deals, Disney World, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | 21 Comments

Autumn in Orlando – Four Harvest Festivals

Now that our air has gone from sultry to seductive,
Orlando-area chefs are stepping outdoors and firing up their stoves. Among the
best events are four that celebrate the season. I talkied about these
events on Fox 35 on October 20. Those of you with Facebook can see the clip here. CLIP 

Edible Orlando Field
to Feast Dinner
Continue reading

Posted in Dining Deals, Disney World, Florida travel, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Travel | 26 Comments

The Lemon Pledge

On Rona’s rarely used WordPress blog, she will post photos showing how different restaurants respond to, “Can I have lemon with my water–a lot of lemon?”

 

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Newest Bites: 18th Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

The mania builds for months before the six-week Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, which, on September 27, will start its 18th year. You’ll find all kinds of seminars and classes and lunches and dinners, all well-run and well-done.

 

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Disney World, Florida travel, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Travel | 9 Comments

The Door Bore

So now it’s doors. Every three hours, it seems, I must replace part of my home.

Blame Florida heat and humidity, cheap 21-year-old builders’
materials or plain old age. Whatever the culprit, a sinister house demon siphons off loads of cash
I’d rather keep. And is, specifically, no fun. At all.

Today’s project is the front door to my house. It’s a
double-door, wood, painted green right now, with little glass panes. The glass
gets filthy, the wood is weakening, the color is cracking off, and the ledges
below each window are perpetually filthy no matter how many times I drag a damp
rag across them.
Continue reading

Posted in homemaking, Housekeeping | 1 Comment

A Funky Local Food Joint, in Jerusalem

Jerusalem has a seriousness about it. The holy sites, the prolific white-stone buildings, the religious folks in assorted traditional attire … the place is magical, but it gives off an aura of somber. Yet the city has a hipper side, and the restaurant Mahneyuda represents it well.

 
According to Fodor’s, Mahneyuda is “considered one of the best in Jerusalem, possibly the country.” So of course The Hub and I sent the kids off for pizza and hauled our curious tushes across the city.

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Travel | 5 Comments

Here’s Where to Get Great Food for Less in August

As I prepare to talk about three great amazing food deals in Orlando for Fox 35’s Good Day on August 11, let me share the details with you. (On August 13 or so, you’ll be able to find the interview here; simply search for “dining deals.”)

 

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Dining Deals, Florida travel, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants, Travel | 2 Comments

Our (Temporary) Ultra-Jewish Immersion

Once I got to Tel Aviv, I found the Israel I expected — a
bunch of brunettes who looked like me and my family living lives similar to
ours.

That’s not what I encountered traveling to Israel. Continue reading

Posted in Teenagers, Travel | 13 Comments

How to Stay Connected While Traveling: Brilliant Kid Version

We were four over-connected Americans traveling to Israel. Between us we had three iPhones, one regular cell phone, one laptop, one GameBoy, one Kindle, and three iPads. Cheapy me, though, refused to buy a new converter for plugging American devices in overseas outlets. Two is enough, I insisted. We’ll share.

 
Not enough! my 16- and 20-year-olds agreed. So they came up with a solution: a circuit breaker with space for plugging in several devices at once.

Continue reading

Posted in Parenting, Teenagers, Travel | 8 Comments

Try Lunch at Cask & Larder

I rarely blog after a media meal. I think it’s cheesy to fill space with free publicity for a restaurant just because I fueled up on its dime. If the food is worthy, I’ll write about the flavors, the portion sizes, and the plate presentations in magazines, books, and online features as opportunities arise.

 
But oh my heavens, I just returned from sampling a few items off Cask & Larder’s lunch menu, which debuts tomorrow. I’m so excited that I absolutely must share the highlights. I admit my enthusiasm might be due to the dreary fact that I usually gobble up lousy lunches while home alone, slapping together a sandwich or nuking leftovers. I won’t go into details about sardines. But hey. Get hungry.

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Orlando restaurants | 7 Comments

In Israel, Itching for a Cure

We were hustling through Tel Aviv to get to the Palmach Museum, where we were scheduled for a tour to learn about the young men and women who worked underground to help Palestine become Israel. We didn’t yet know that we’d grow attached to the characters in a sort-of re-enactment (and that I’d cry. Twice.), or that we’d see a photograph of Nir the private tour guide’s father, who was among this elite group. Continue reading

Posted in Travel | 7 Comments

Israel, in Bits and Pieces

So clearly my plan to blog about Israel isn’t bustling along. I’ve been home for nearly three weeks without posting a word. So let’s do this in bits.

 

Continue reading

Posted in Travel | 1 Comment

This Chick Has No Need for Speed

I’d made it three times around the track already, heart
thumping, sincerely scared. Yet I hadn’t knocked over any orange cones or
barrels, hadn’t tipped the $270,000 Lamborghini LP570-4 Superleggera on its
side, hadn’t accidentally bloodied the bored young man in the passenger seat.
Continue reading

Posted in Disney World, Florida travel, Travel | 25 Comments

No, Publicist, I Will Not Guarantee Ink for Your Client

An editor asked me to represent his magazine at a media dinner next week. The meal will be a gathering of journalists and bloggers at a new farm-to-table restaurant within a major Orlando hotel. Sure, I said. I’m a food and travel writer so I need to keep up with the area’s newest kitchens. This magazine, among others, might be able to use an article about it.

I RSVP’d yes and filled out a form stating my affiliation. The paper, sent by the restaurant’s publicist, asked me to pledge that — Ach, I can’t even paraphrase without wincing. Here, just read it yourself: “I confirm I am on assignment for the outlet listed above and will produce a feature/review as a result of my dining experience at {Restaurant X}.” The form required a signature.
 

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Journalism, Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Charlotte County, Upscale and Down

Should you fear that Charlotte County, Punta Gorda and the surrounding areas are good only for eating food, you’re mistaken. You can also learn about where food comes from.

We travel writers began Day 3 at the Peace River Wildlife Center.


Continue reading

Posted in Florida travel, Travel | 7 Comments

Punta Gorda, on a Plate

My journey around Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf lslands turned out to be a gorge-a-thon — which is a lovely way to see Punta Gorda and its environs.

Our troupe of food writers and bloggers began Day 2 at The Egg & I Restaurant in Englewood.

Continue reading

Posted in Florida travel, Travel | 22 Comments

Homemade Olive Oil and Wicked-Good Scallops

Our Charlotte Harbor, Florida, culinary adventures began with a visit to Catania’s Winery

 You’re thinking grapes, right? And vines? Me too. But this place isn’t like that. It’s a little storefront in what seems to be an industrial area. Husband and wife John and Margarita make their own wine — from California grapes. They also press their own oil from Sicilian olives and repackage imported Spanish olive oil under their own label.

Continue reading

Posted in Florida travel, Travel | 53 Comments

Welcome to the WannaB Inn

The folks who handle tourism for Charlotte Harbor and The Gulf Islands were kind enough to invite me on a media tour of the this pretty coastal area. Please indulge my sharing the highlights.

I just checked into the WannaB Inn, a pretty hotel down a quiet block with 900 feet of beachfront. Lemon Bay is one side, filled with dolphins and manatee. The Gulf of Mexico is steps in the other direction. The hotel has been around since 1958, but new owners took over two years ago and have been sprucing it up ever since. Continue reading

Posted in Travel | 24 Comments

The Pickypants Family, Part 2

Background: For a friend’s Christmas dinner, I baked a chocolate “decadence” cake from the Silver Palate Cookbook. 
Making the dessert included melting chocolate, beating egg whites, sifting flour … work. Son No. 1 — who has preferred processed foods to fresh since he was a baby — wasn’t thrilled with it. 

Continue reading

Posted in Cooking, Parenting, Teenagers | 5 Comments

Fantasyland’s New BE OUR GUEST Restaurant

For food-focused travelers, the most exciting part of the
Magic Kingdom’s new Fantasyland additions will be Be Our Guest, a restaurant themed
around Beauty and the Beast. Here are
some inside details about what to expect.
Continue reading

Posted in Disney World | 20 Comments

17th Annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

For 17 years, Epcot has transformed its World Showcase into a mecca for folks who like to taste new foods and wines. And for 17 years, the Food and Wine Festival team has brightened the festival with new flavors. The 2012 event will have Florida and vegan (called Terra) marketplaces. Kids will
get to drink frothed up Nesquick in chocolate or strawberry and adults can
sample a wine made from key lime juice. The Florida Beer Company will make a Devil’s
Triangle brew exclusively for the festival.
Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Disney World | 17 Comments

Taco Tuesday. Meh.

“It looks pretty saucy. Is it saucier than usual?”

This is Josh, my college student, home for the summer. He’s examining a frying pan filled with flavored chopped meat, perplexed, nay concerned, that the dinner set before him isn’t quite right. It’s Taco Tuesday, you see, a weekly event in
our kitchen because Josh misses Cornell’s make-your-own supper, in which he indulged every Monday last school year. (They don’t menu plan via alliteration there, apparently.) Taco night relieved Josh from the monotony of the Mongolian-barbecue chicken dinner; that’s what he ate every other evening.
Continue reading

Posted in Cooking, homemaking, Parenting, Teenagers | 16 Comments

The Rest of Orlando’s Best

When the editors of Orlando Home & Leisure couldn’t fit all my “best of” suggestions into their next issue, they generously agreed to let me share the remainders here. These are sensational tastes and such in and near Orlando. Get in those cars, locals! For more — the ones that did make the cut, check out the magazine’s May 2012 issue. Continue reading

Posted in Orlando dining, Orlando restaurants | 24 Comments

Faux Moi

You should have seen me Saturday night, wiping salt off my tongue. Not wiping. That’s too civilized a description. With a force of desperation, I was dragging a linen napkin over my tongue, from top to bottom, top to bottom. Occasionally I’d jam a finger in and wrap it around my tongue to scoop out more of the assaulting mess. The chunky, sandy NaCl tasted repulsive — more like putrid coffee grounds that wouldn’t dissolve than the tempting bits of crystal at the bottom of the Snyder’s bag.

Continue reading

Posted in Dining, Manners | Leave a comment

Food Bloggers: Keep Your Day Jobs

“I am a underwriter by day.”*

Well that’s it. This food blogger surge must stop.

Every house in every subdivision, it seems, is home to a food blogger. In every apartment, petite or palatial, sits a would-be scribe compelled to share the joy of each smoky slab of ribs, silky slice of pie or chilled glass of single-origin iced coffee consumed. This I-shoulda-been-a journalist flits 10 fingers across a laptop keyboard by night, interspersing pedestrian photos with enthusiastic, if unpolished, prose.

I wouldn’t care about the Internet’s overwhelming wad of food bloggers  … if the amateurs weren’t getting undue attention.

This will come across as bitter no matter how carefully I say it, although, as you’ll see, that’s truly not my intent: The food bloggers who are savvy about getting their work before loads of pairs of eyeballs are also now getting prime invitations. They’re seated beside me and my ilk at media events; in the past, we were a closed-to-the-public  posse of like-minded souls, passionate pros who get as enthusiastic about a cunning pun as a sensationally seasoned caramelized onion. Occasionally, the new bevy of bloggers is seated at such events instead of the credible crews.

I can see why. Credentialed critics might write a glowing feature — or snarl about a soggy salad. If we’re unimpressed, we may not give the host establishment any ink at all. Our magazines/newspapers/books/websites have limited space and we use our precious column inches to guide our readers to the best meals possible. Bloggers, by contrast, seem giddy to be gallivanting to restaurant tables all over town. As thanks for passage into the inner sanctum, they’ll produce virtual pages upon pages of glowing praise — of course with hopes of receiving new evites in the future.

Many bloggers are discriminating, to be sure, and they are due full respect. Others tend simply to write about the basics. I’d like to share two examples. At one recent media dinner for a new restaurant, an egg was lovingly cooked for 55 minutes sous-vide style. Its creamy yolk and satiny white were served atop a frisée salad dotted with bacon lardons and tossed with celeriac dressing, the whole a complement to a seared King salmon fillet. A food blogger — a really neat gal who does a respectable job — summed up her detailed description about the egg thus: “It was very enjoyable.”

That’s clear. It’s straightforward. And if I handed an editor an opinion like that, I’d … well, I’d be an untethered food blogger with no source of income. The pains of food writing — the tortured eons we long-timers loathe — are due to the challenge of descriptive writing. “Very enjoyable” is fine. It’s also an easy way out. By contrast, think about how many times you’ve read a review mentioning a restaurant’s crab cakes. “Very enjoyable” would be unacceptable. Even a predictable sentence like, “The golden-brown discs were filled with well-seasoned chunks of tender crabmeat and plated with a spicy remoulade” wouldn’t do. It would once, actually — but what about the next time that food writer describes a crab cake? That one would need to be differentiated from the first. Not easy stuff.

Here’s the second example of writing that could have more umph. A local luxury hotel flew (I presume) a bunch of New York-based food bloggers into town to cover a culinary extravaganza. Reporting on a special breakfast, one of the guests did what bloggers do well. She wrote a lo-o-o-ong piece and inserted several photos. “And the peacock rug!! I want one in my apartment! ” she cooed. “Handsome devil, isn’t he? ” she said of the chef. Cute stuff.  We see creative juice concoctions, honey-truffle butter … all appropriate. And then – ta-dum – “I also drank a cup of coffee with breakfast.” Below was an image of coffee being poured into a fine china cup. Really? (The blog received 35 comments, so obviously she is meeting a need in the marketplace. I’m bewildered as to why.)

I could offer restaurants and hotels the same service – easily, in fact, since I can whip up a written sentence as speedily as that handsome hotel chef can get an omelet from pan to table. I can snap a bunch of photos with my camera, iPhone or iPad and fill up this blog with a lo-o-o-ong combo of images and explanations. I don’t in part because I don’t have time; writing is my livelihood, not a hobby, so I’m repulsed at the idea of doing more once I shut down the workday. (Food bloggers, by contrast, are often engineers, accountants or full-time moms by day; I can certainly relate to their urge to delve into food writing as a hobby.) I also tend to find food blogs boring. I don’t mean that as an insult. I just don’t know why anyone would want to see photos of some other  layman’s meal along with lengthy descriptions for each one.

I do blog some. On this site, I test out new kinds of writing and venture into topics unrelated to my paid work. My website, by contrast, has what I call a bloggy area on the home page; readers find a regularly changing roster of restaurant and travel news. My goal is to have a lively site so editors and publishers seeking assistance will be impressed enough to hire me for writing gigs. It’s a success.So I’m not bitter. I have the wherewithal, the reputation and the contacts to be Chief Food Blogger Babe in my market should I so chose. I’m just … dismayed. Although I Tweet and blog and manage three Facebook pages, I’m exhausted by the constantly changing virtual world and the need to keep up with it. I also like having an editor polish my work, a luxury blog posts lack, including mine.

I humbly accept that I’ll be a guest at fewer media meals as the hip techno-whiz food bloggers take my seat, since those go-getters give most venues more press than I do. They tend to be a spirited, intelligent and passionate group of up-and-comers, and I wish them no ill will. In fact, I admire them. But will I feel a little sad, a tad cranky, the next time I read that a bunch of them “checked in” at a new restaurant’s grand opening ? Of course. That’s how we people react.

*As for that quote up top, “I am a underwriter by day”: I happened upon a blog today that featured a contest to win a cute apron. That quote is part of the author’s bio. Here’s where I do get mad: That’s not proper English. Get an editor, or get out of the business.

I do like that apron, though. Most of mine are faded and stained shmatas from past restaurant media meals..

Aprons  like what food bloggers get

Aprons

(See, I can play the picture game.)
I should consider buying that retro-chic apron even though it is $36. I may not be gifted another one at a restaurant media event anytime soon. That would be fine, but the thought of “a underwriter” wearing a freebie makes me mad.
Eat well,
Rona
Posted in Food bloggers | Tagged , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Potty Training

Do you see these paint swatches? The rainbow of pinks – not one of them the rich beige with a faint hint of pink that I desperately want? Continue reading

Posted in Bathroom design, homemaking, Housekeeping, Kitchen design | 9 Comments

Band Camp? Maybe If It Had A/C

Ryan has a brutal upper respiratory infection. He’s lucky. Why? Because if he felt good, if his nose and throat and head and glands weren’t swollen and achy, he’d be at band camp.

Continue reading

Posted in Parenting, Teenagers | 15 Comments

Hear Me Roar

One fine spring day in Oneonta, New York, my college friend Chris and I bolted out of her car in a bank parking lot while belting out the words to Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman.” Newspaper editors, serious students and overall ambitious young women, we were giddy with possibilities – until we came face to face with Clifford Craven, our school principal. We clammed up. We uttered “Hello, Dr. Craven.” We scurried into the building and then, of course, broke into giggles.

Continue reading

Posted in homemaking, Housekeeping, Parenting, Teenagers | 49 Comments

Picky, Picky

Toppling out of a meeting at my kid’s school 8 o’clock at night, famished and damn sick of the black pumps squeezing my toes, I was happy to learn that Son No. 1 had remembered to take the chicken wings dinner I’d prepared in advance out of the oven.  Until I read his text: “Please never make them again.” Pissed, I scrolled to the next message, from my  husband: “Wings for me? They’re all skin.”

Continue reading

Posted in Cooking, homemaking, Parenting, Teenagers | 25 Comments

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Low-grade terror of spills, stains and general culinary chaos aside, I decided to cook for company in my new kitchen.

That’s a normal thing to do, right? Yet I hesitated. I still struggle with the layout of my renovated kitchen, which has had me incessantly wiping counters, cabinets and floors for a month. My silverware, my cups, my garlic press, my food processor – it takes three tries to find each item because nothing is where it had been for 13 years. I go for a fork and discover oven mitts. I aim for the citrus squeezer and reap sandwich bags. But I can pull off a simple dinner, surely. What could go wrong? Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 18 Comments

Fear of Frying

Take a look at this picture. It’s a blah picture of a spoon rest on a plastic plate, right? Oh no. It’s more than that. This is Michael and me being scared of our kitchen. This is an image of spoon rest on a plastic plate so the metal won’t somehow destroy the counter under it.

Give me back my hovel.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Maybe an Easy-Bake Oven Will Help

Even I had to laugh when the smoke alarm went off. I was crouched to the ground of the hallway outside the kids’ rooms gently smashing hamburgers against the twin heated serrated panels of a hand-me-down George Foreman grill. My knee tendons were ready to burst through the skin, my feet cramped from the weight of my contorted body, yet I was determined to serve something resembling a home-cooked meal to my family – even if none of us could get too excited about the results. While I tried to figure out how you tell when the meat is cooked through while it’s hidden from view in the opaque appliance, meanwhile jostling the paper plates and plastic utensils that we’d be using in lieu of serviceware that doesn’t flop over under weight, I heard the insistent high-pitched EHHH EHHH EHHH of the hardwired alarm – and then the urgent ringing of the telephone, which of course was the security company checking in on us. Continue reading

Posted in homemaking, Housekeeping, Kitchen design | 23 Comments

Paint Me Blue x 2

OK, clearly I’m so hot at inserting photos into blogs, either. Will have the teenagers take a look and fix it later.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Paint Me Blue

You see this?

That’s us trying to choose a wall color for the common rooms of our house. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Kitchen Confidential

So now cabinets are out of style.

Cabinets! How can cabinets be out of style? Continue reading

Posted in homemaking, Kitchen design | 30 Comments

Helpful or Hovering? Draw Your Own Line

Now that school has started, I’m faced with similar decisions every day: Do I lobby to get Josh the teacher he wants for AP Environmental or step back? Do I rummage through Ryan’s backpack for papers I need to sign or let him get a zero if he doesn’t follow through? And the big one this week: Do I follow up with the mother who threatened to go to the dean if Ryan calls her kid a mean name again (which he denies) and try to keep her calm, or do I let the school’s anti-bullying system take its course?

Continue reading

Posted in Helicopter Parents, Parenting, Teenagers | 21 Comments

Can I Stop Yet?

If Josh gets into an ace university, it’s only because A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian didn’t catch my interest. I’d avoided reading a friend’s borrowed Admission Matters for two months, passing over the intimating tome for novels, memoirs and the occasional People magazine. It sat on my coffee table week after week, brushed aside by not only me but also my upper education-bound son and his impressively educated father. Me? Why should I read it? I did my job as a parent, I reasoned. I’m done. Josh is a good kid with a good future. If he wants to get into the Ivy League, let him figure out the finer details.

Continue reading

Posted in Parenting, Teenagers | 11 Comments

Here’s the Dish: Wash Your Own

Putting away bulky All-Clad pans following a recent dinner party, my fingers came across a layer of goo. Not goo, really. Grime. Grease. Whatever the word, my shiny stainless steel über-cookware felt unclean. I suddenly felt a surge of dread. “I washed serving dishes at Norine’s barbecue yesterday,” I remembered, sickened. “Now she’ll know.”

Continue reading

Posted in Housekeeping | 17 Comments

Thanks for the Thanks

This girl got it right.
My beloved R, who is no angel, was allegedly part of a group that acted disrespectfully during a classmate’s bat mitzvah. I’m told the girl knows little of the gang’s what-were-they-thinking behavior but her mother’s in the loop–and understandably disgusted. What do you put in a thank you note if the standard “I’m glad you could celebrate with me” is a lie?
How about this: “Thank you for the money. It will go towards my future.” Honest, and sort of adorable.
Good for her and her mother for taking the high road and sending a thank you note.
www.RonaGindin.com
Posted in Manners, Parenting, Teenagers | 4 Comments

Thanks for Nothing

Ha! I just found myself on the other side of the “thank you” issue — twice. End of story: I will not make any fuss.

Continue reading

Posted in Manners, Parenting, Teenagers | 14 Comments

In a Manner of Speaking

“Shame on you!” my friend reprimanded her daughter at a kid’s soccer game recently. “Walk behind people’s chairs, not in front of them.” WHUH? Once again, I discovered that I have bad manners. I’ve been to dozens upon dozens of soccer games in the last 13 years, and it never once occurred to me that I would obstruct parents’ views by strolling by as they as they cheer on their goalies and defenders. It’s common sense, right? Not to me.

Continue reading

Posted in Manners, Parenting, Teenagers | 48 Comments

All Manner of Bad Manners

On a warm spring evening in front of a friend’s house, I hurried with my 13-year-old into the car and shut the door. “Did something happen at the bar mitzvah?” I asked. He calmly said no and asked why. “B’s father just called Daddy over to talk privately and he looked somber,” I explained. “If something’s up, I’d rather hear it from you.”

Continue reading

Posted in Manners, Parenting, Teenagers | 26 Comments

Rona:The Rest of the Story

You’ll find restaurant updates and recommendations on my website, but I have to be careful there: Stick to the theme, stay politically correct, etc. Here I’ll let loose — about being a mom, a wife, an angry consumer or an elated editor. I’ll be honest and I beg you to be too.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment