Continuing our tradition of trying new places to eat in Orlando, we dined at Toledo, the new rooftop restaurant inside Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. A magical elevator takes you to the top floor where you emerge into a spacious lounge area. You can come for drinks and the view if you don’t care to stay for dinner. Here we are gazing toward Hollywood Studios. You can see the new Star Wars land under construction and the Tower of Terror.
Inside the restaurant, we were led to a quiet table among the bustle. We began our meal with an olive medley and flatbread with melted cheese for appetizers.
I ordered tilefish for my entrée and was pleasantly surprised by the tasty dish. Dessert was the best, a couple of chocolate concoctions that we all shared.
Our other days in Orlando were taken up with family visits. On this night, we were celebrating our son’s birthday. We’ll soon have a lot more to celebrate as my husband and I become grandparents for the first time later this year.
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Happy New Year! Time is moving on, so let me tell you about our latest adventures in Orlando over Christmas. We took a stroll at The Mall at Millenia that was nicely decorated for the holidays. Dinner included an evening at Bosphorus Turkish Cuisine. We began with their hollow lava bread and hummus appetizer. I really liked the zucchini patties served with yogurt. I could eat this savory dish for an entire meal. The appetizer includes three huge pancakes, so be prepared to share. I didn’t care so much for the falafel ones. My husband had the lamb shish-kabob for his entrée, and I had moussaka. I always like this eggplant dish. I’d wanted to explore the Island Grove Wine Company at Formosa Gardens in Kissimmee. It’s mostly a retail store with a café and tasting bar. Although they advertise tours and a botanical garden, these don’t really exist. We each enjoyed a turkey sandwich along with our wine tasting. I liked the dry blueberry, the slightly sweet peach, and the cranberry wine. The company has a full-fledged winery at Hawthorne, FL: https://www.islandgrovewinecompany.com/ From here, we went down the street to an indoor flea market but the twisting stalls held a collection of shlock. Good place for tourists but not for us. It doesn’t compare to the Festival Marketplace at home. Coming Next: Christmas Day in Disney Springs GIVEAWAY Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN Gift Card at Booklover’s Bench
We got into St. Petersburg, Florida on Wednesday Sept. 5. Unfortunately, I hadn’t booked the conference hotel which was already full when I registered for Bouchercon World Mystery Convention. Events took place at the historic Vinoy Renaissance by the bay. This distinctive structure faces a boat marina and a park on one side and Beach Drive at another end. Our hotel, the Hampton Inn, was on a side street from this main strip that hosts a plethora of restaurants and museums. The town is good for a few days stay with all there is to see and do. Here are shots of the Vinoy that was built in the 1920’s. It was a distinct disadvantage not staying there as we had to tip the valet at the Hampton Inn each time we needed the car. I got too hot walking the five to six blocks in ninety degree heat to the conference hotel while dressed up for the meeting. Once I left the Vinoy in the afternoon, I didn’t return. Daily thunderstorms and the intense heat prevented another long stroll. A shuttle ran between conference hotels, but only in the early morning and late afternoon. So I learned my lesson. Never stay off site again. However, we enjoyed St. Petersburg along Beach Drive even though we didn’t go farther into downtown. Dining adventures included Parkshore Grill where we had lunch on day one. We dined outside at Fresco’s on the first night. We met my former critique partner, Sharon Hartley, and her husband for dinner at Bella Brava. Richard and I enjoyed the early bird special at 400 Beach Seafood. I think I had more fun trying the different restaurants than anything else! I skipped out on the conference on Saturday afternoon for a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts. This two-story building held many exhibits including sculptures, paintings, and valuable artifacts. I liked the clock exhibit. There’s a café and gift shop on the premises. Here are some of the items we viewed. More are in the album on my Facebook page.
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As usual when we visit Orlando, we like to try new dining spots as well as frequent some of our favorite restaurants. Besides Bonefish Grill and Longhorn, we celebrated our family’s September birthdays with the Magical Dining Month menu at Fleming’s. I got the beef filet with a salad and carrot cake for dessert. I didn’t fare as well at Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival. This being Labor Day Weekend and the opening of the festival, the park was crowded and there was a long wait under the broiling sun just to get in through bag inspection. We made it to a couple of places where I tasted the mini blended burger (very good!) and the loaded mac and cheese (too spicy). Then I succumbed to the heat and felt lightheaded. After a brief rest on a shady bench, I recovered my stamina and we headed to the festival marketplace to pick up our annual passholder magnets. Then we left, vowing to return when the weather has cooled and the crowds have thinned. I just can’t make this trek anymore in the 90+ degree heat. Another day, we dined at La Madelaine, a French café located inside the Florida Mall where we took a nice air-conditioned walk. I didn’t have a problem there and enjoyed the exercise. My meal here was tomato basil soup, Caesar salad, and a half turkey and brie sandwich. The best breakfast was at Keke’s Café where I had a waffle accompanied by fresh berries and whipped cream. The highlight of the week was a bridal shower in honor of our daughter held at Orchid Thai Cuisine in Winter Park. The food was delicious from the buffet-style appetizers to the plated lunch to the beautiful cake. Our daughter was radiant as she greeted her friends and other guests. It’s hard to follow the wedding diet on these meals. I’d say I would wait until after the wedding, since that weekend will involve a lot of eating too, but then Thanksgiving will be upon us. Maybe I should make getting in shape a New Year’s resolution?
Aside from our culinary rounds at World Showcase’s marketplaces in Epcot as mentioned below, we sampled the cuisine at a variety of places in and around Orlando over the weekend. At Disney Springs, we ate at Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ Florida Kitchen. The atmosphere was lively in this popular Orlando eaterie, and the service was good. I got their famous fried chicken with creamy mashed potatoes and a cheese biscuit while Richard got a fish sandwich. My dinner platter came with three pieces of chicken. My opinion? The chicken had too much breading. I filled an entire salad plate with the pickings. You can get better fried chicken at Publix for half the price. The mashed potatoes were creamy as advertised but nothing special. The biscuit was surpassed by the ones at Red Lobster. This restaurant is a fun place to try once, but we weren’t impressed enough to return.
Next stop was a repeat visit to The Big Easy, a New Orleans-style restaurant across the street from our condo in Windermere. I had the red beans and rice that came with corn bread. It was a tasty meal and a large enough portion for me to have leftovers, but it would have been even better if it came with a small salad. Richard had a Caesar salad with shrimp. There was live music and the bar was filled, so it can get pretty noisy inside. We like the food and the prices and will doubtless return here.
Another night found us at Landry’s Seafood Restaurant, where I had salmon with asparagus couscous and Richard had the crab cake appetizer as his meal. The main entrees came with salad and garlic bread. I like the menu choices here and the prices are reasonable. The crowd tends to be older, but we seniors know a good bargain when we see one. Ask for an AARP discount.
Following the Orlando Book Festival at Orlando Public Library, we met our family at Shari Sushi in the Thornton Park district. I ordered citrus crusted Scottish salmon with quinoa salad and Greek yogurt, while my husband had the crab meat salad. Neither of us was terribly impressed, although the younger folks among us loved the sushi there. Shari is a popular restaurant, so it clearly has its repeat fans.
We couldn’t resist a visit to Beck Brothers Blueberries to pick our own basket full of plump, ripe berries. These are always good, and they stay fresh for a long time.
All of these dining experiences made me gain two pounds, so now I have to work on getting the weight off so I can fit into my mother-of-the-bride outfits.
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We always enjoy the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival at Disney World. We bypassed the attractions in Future World to head straight back to World Showcase. The display of flowers floating on the pond and arrayed on its grassy banks provided a splash of vibrant color. The weather cooperated by being sunny and temperate. We turned right toward Canada, beating most of the crowd that seemed to start in the other direction toward Mexico.
Richard started our culinary tour with the Pear Cider-Brined Shredded Corned Beef and Braised Cabbage from the Cider House at the United Kingdom. $5.50.
I got the duck confit aka Confit de Canard aux Gnocchi a la Parisienne at France. The tender meat came with gnocchi in a tasty mushroom gravy. $5.75.
Next we indulged in the Potato Pancakes from Germany at the Bauernmarkt. These were two thin pancakes like you’d make at home on a griddle, topped with fresh apple sauce. $4.25.
For dessert, we couldn’t resist the Wild Berry Buckle at The Berry Basket, near the entrance to World Showcase toward the Mexico side. It was divine. Blueberries topped a piece of cake that was accompanied by a scoop of berry gelato. $4.50.
These selections were enough to fill my stomach. I stopped by Club Cool for a free drink of raspberry soda. Here you can sample a variety of soft drinks from around the world. Needless to say, I gulped down multiple samples until my thirst was quenched.
Another day, we ate lunch in the Wilderness Lodge at Whispering Canyon Café. This was a fun meal with the waitress throwing straws and napkins on the table and people screaming they needed ketchup. Then other patrons would run over with a dozen bottles or so. You could order an all-you-can-eat skillet with chicken, ribs, pulled pork, corn-on-the-cob, mashed potatoes, baked beans, and sausage. I had the tuna melt that was really good.
A loaf of corn bread with butter started us out. Our son ordered root beer and got a giant glassful.
After our stomachs were filled, we meandered through the western themed hotel and outside by the pool. Numerous other restaurants and an inviting lounge will necessitate another visit.
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Once again, we dined our way through another Orlando visit. Our first stop on this culinary journey was dinner at The Big Easy in Windermere. My husband had a vegetable po-boy, and I had breaded tilapia with rice and beans and sautéed veggies. The rice and beans were really good and would make a meal in itself with a side of corn bread. We actually returned here for lunch but I got a cobb salad that time. I like the New Orleans-style decorations and the lively bar scene.
Our next foray was to Morimoto Asia in Disney Springs. They celebrated cherry blossom festival with flowering plants and dinner specials. I ordered the sake sangria. My meal was two appetizers, the Portobello mushroom fries and chicken dumplings.
We detoured from our usual route to explore St. Augustine. Lunch was at Harry’s where I got the crab meat and eggplant Napoleon. It was delish. This is a favorite restaurant of mine in this city, especially if you sit outside in the breezy courtyard. I wouldn’t do this in the heat of summer, however, with the scorching sun overhead and hungry mosquitoes looking for bait. Then I’d ask for a table indoors.
Now we’re back home, and I have to lose the extra weight I’d gained. That’s the problem with culinary adventures. You pay for the calories and salt intake when you resume your normal routine.
Besides attending the Epcot Food and Wine Festival at Disney World this past weekend in Orlando, we tried a couple of new restaurants. Friday night, we ate at Longhorn in Winter Garden. This wasn’t new to us, but I ordered the grilled shrimp and enjoyed this dish with rice, a baked sweet potato, salad, and bread.
On Saturday, we ate brunch at Slate. This trendy establishment is located by Trader Joes on West Sand Lake Road. Weekend brunch menu items are reasonably priced and varied in selection. Our family shared the deviled eggs appetizer, and I had the toast points with smoked salmon for my meal. This wasn’t lox like I’d expected but real pieces of cooked salmon in a tasty mixture. While pricey for dinner, the restaurant is open during weekdays for lunch.
Since we weren’t too hungry for dinner, we took a walk around Disney’s Riverside Resort that is close to our condo. Then we settled into the lounge for drinks and appetizers that would serve as our meal. I enjoyed the cheese fritters that were fried cheese balls in a sweet red pepper sauce. My Mai Tai had lots of fruit juice but seemed to be light on the rum. The guys had the hearty gumbo soup.
Sunday we went to Epcot for a stroll around World Showcase. Here we turned right and stopped first at the Caribbean marketplace. I passed on their seared grouper with pigeon peas and rice in coconut sauce, deciding to wait for further fare. One member of our party tried their Quesito puff pastry stuffed with sweetened cream cheese and guava sauce. At Patagonia, our son had the grilled beef skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Puree.
My first taste was the mushroom beef filet mignon at Canada ($7.25). At Scotland, I had one of my favorite dishes, the crispy potato pancake with Scottish smoked salmon and herbed sour cream ($5.00).
After getting my protein, I was prepared to saunter along in the ninety-degree heat toward France. They always have dishes I like but the portions are generous, and I decided to save my appetite. The guys each had the Beef Bourguignon, braised short ribs with mashed potatoes ($6.25). I’ve had it before, and it’s very good but filling. And it was too hot for their onion soup with gruyere and cognac. Nor was I ready for dessert, or I’d have had the caramel chocolate crème brulee. Don’t these descriptions make your mouth water?
Belgium had a dish I might have tried if I hadn’t already eaten meat. The beer-braised beef with smoked gouda mashed potatoes sounded good. Next time. Of course, you can get Belgian waffles here, too.
At Japan, our daughter had the spicy sushi roll ($5.75). I couldn’t resist the garlic shrimp and rice ($6.95). It’s as good as it sounds, although if you eat all the rice, you might get too stuffed for anything else. As it was, I’d wanted to try the smoked beef brisket and pimento cheese at the American Adventure, but was already getting too full. Their lobster roll and carrot cake sounded tempting, too.
We dipped into the Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar at Italy to share a bottle of wine and to cool off in the darkened interior. It’s a quiet place where you can relax and recoup your energy along with your appetite.
Unfortunately, I didn’t recoup my hunger enough to try the Korean BBQ beef, the Chinese roasted duck with hoisin sauce or the chicken pot stickers, the Mexican chocolate flan, or the lamb chop at Australia. Next time, we’ll have to start to the left at World Showcase and go around in the opposite direction.
Toward the end, I stopped at Farm Fresh for their savory mac and cheese dish ($4.50) that came with bacon bits and chopped green onions. It was my favorite taste of this visit. Their stewed chicken with mushrooms and spinach sounded good, but I couldn’t eat anymore. Or drink anymore. I might have liked to try the Mai Tai or pineapple wine at the Hawaii marketplace.
Meandering past the Caribbean site again, we visited the new additions on our way back to Future World. We couldn’t resist the Chocolate Studio where we sampled the red wine chocolate truffle ($2.25) and the chocolate raspberry torte ($4.00).
Note that vegetarian, gluten-free, and kid-friendly items are marked in the Festival Passport booklet. The Food and Wine Festival is open until mid-November. It’s especially pleasant once the season’s first cold front moves in and cools the air. Meanwhile, be prepared with umbrellas for the passing showers. And now that I’ve reviewed all these treats available there, I’m ready to go again.
That night, we didn’t feel like eating a heavy dinner, so we ventured to 33 & Melt, a grilled cheese emporium only open past 4:00 pm in the Summerport area of Windermere. It’s located amid townhouses in a residential district at a recreated town square. A few other shops are sprinkled in here with a lake toward the rear. I had the grilled brie with raspberry preserves sandwich. Entries come with salad greens tossed in champagne vinaigrette; a dipper of very tasty tomato soup, and a couple of pickle slices. It’s a small neighborhood place with a bar serving beer and wine, but it’s family-friendly and the food is good.
Look at what waited by our doorstep on our return home. Was he out looking for a meal, too?
We wanted to try the newly opened STK Orlando restaurant at Disney Springs, and Magical Dining Month gave us the perfect opportunity. Reservations are definitely recommended for this popular dining establishment located by the bridge between the Marketplace and the West End. Inside, thumping music from a DJ’s selections greeted us as we were seated. The dimly lit interior was pleasantly designed in black and white colors. Here are the dining room and the bar area.
Evidently, lunch is served on a second level, and there’s a rooftop location as well. As it was raining out, we did not go up for a view after dinner. We ordered a glass of wine each. They did not have the bottle we wanted for fifty-some dollars and instead said the least expensive bottle of wine was sixty-eight dollars. A glass of wine costs thirteen dollars and up. So be prepared to spend some bucks on your liquor. Beer is less costly. The pull-apart bread comes with some kind of flavored olive oil dip.
I chose the beets with goat cheese and hazelnuts for my starter dish. It was unusual and delicious. Tomato soup or a Romaine salad were other choices.
Since we’d had fish last night, we all chose the petite filet that came charred on the outside and tender pink on the inside. This came with a mildly spicy sauce and a few waxed beans. We ordered a dish of sautéed mushrooms on the side. The meal was so good that none of us had leftovers to take home.
The men in our party chose the orange dream cheesecake for dessert while we ladies had the chocolate chip cookie with ice cream. The large inflated cookie was the crispy variety and not too soft. We preferred the lava cake from the night before. Nonetheless, there wasn’t a crumb left on our plates.
Now that I’ve probably gained back the couple of pounds I’d lost before this trip, we are ready to return home and eat more mundane and healthful choices.
Saturday night, we dined at Eleven rooftop restaurant at the Reunion Resort in Kissimmee, FL. We like trying new places during Orlando’s Magical Dining Month, where you can get a three-course meal for $33 per person. This golf resort sits off exit 58 from I-4 heading west from Orlando toward Tampa. It’s a large gated community that winds around until you reach the resort proper.
The views atop the eleventh floor warrant a visit. Note how you can see Epcot in the far distance. A swimming pool is adjacent to the restaurant named Eleven.
Inside, the dining area is pleasant with views all around. The first course we chose was coconut shrimp, crispy and succulent with a spicy sauce on the side.
Next we ordered cedar planked salmon which came accompanied by mashed potatoes and asparagus. This was tasty and a generous enough portion that I had leftovers to take home. I didn’t care so much for the soft rolls in the bread basket as they had a sprinkling of salt on the crust, and I didn’t need the added sodium. An herb butter gave a mild flavor.
Dessert, a chocolate lava cake, was sinfully rich. I ate the whole thing. It’s diet city for me once we go home.
While I enjoyed trying this restaurant and seeing the view, I wouldn’t make a return trip here. It’s too far out of the way, and although the meal was good, I can get an equivalent salmon or steak dinner elsewhere.
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