Cooking Class – Steakhouses

I enjoy attending Aprons Cooking School classes at Publix not only for what I might learn, but also for the pageantry, the recipes, the food tastings and the wine pairings. Tonight’s class, Steakhouses Around the World, began with a welcome drink. I liked the Lunetta Prosecco enough to put it on my buy list.

cooking class

Our first course was a Mushroom and Gruyere Tart paired with a Barone Fini Pinot Grigio. This wine was good but not exceptional enough to replace another favorite of ours. The tart, while very tasty, was cheesier than I’d expected. Again, I liked it, but I like my own vegetable quiches and zucchini pies better.

Mushroom Gruyere tart

Next came a Wilted Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette and Candied Walnuts. This salad was delicious but probably too labor-intensive for me to make at home. The wine pairing, 19 Crimes Chardonnay, is one of my favorites. Each cork in this series denotes a different crime. They’re fun to collect. It’s also fun to use the Living Wine Labels app and see the faces on the bottle labels come alive and talk to you.

Spinach Salad

The meats were served on a plate together as our entrée. I’m not a big steak person, so I wouldn’t make the New York Strip Steak with Smoky Bacon Port Sauce at home. I preferred the tender Slow Roasted Prime Rib with Horseradish Chantilly Cream. These were served with a glass of Stag’s Leap The Investor. I like this Napa Valley Red Wine and would get it again. As for the meats, I’ll stick with making brisket at home and eating prime ribs or beef filet when I go out.

Steaks

Almond Tuile Cups with Key Lime Sorbet was our dessert offered along with a fruity Mohua Sauvignon Blanc, which is not my favorite variety. The sorbet was refreshing but I liked the edible tuile cups better. I’m more of an ice cream fan than a follower of sorbet, sherbet, or gelato.

Key Lime Sorbet

Overall, it was a fun evening whether or not I make any of the recipes. The classes are still a good buy. You get entertainment in the form of a cooking demonstration, a meal with several courses, accompanying wines, and recipes to take home. You also may meet some nice people to chat with between chef demos.

Aprons Cooking School

Disclaimer: Any errors are due to my misinterpretation.

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Orlando Dining Revisited

Our dining adventures in Orlando continue with a visit to Epcot Food and Wine Festival and Magical Dining Month. Now is not the time to reduce your calorie intake.

Since I can never pass up the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, we had to go for a tasting. I didn’t plan to go far in the 90+ degree heat. We killed time until 11am when World Showcase opened by going on the Living with the Land and the Imagination rides. I still love to see the vegetables and fruits growing in their experimental environment and the fish in the aquaponics tanks.

Our first food stop was Flavors from Fire for the Steakhouse Blended Burger, a blend of beef and mushrooms in a slider on a brioche bun with melted Brie cheese, arugula, and a blue cheese potato chip. It was a gooey dish but satisfying and tasty. We passed by a few other marketplaces to stop at Thailand for their Marinated Chicken with peanut sauce and stir-fried vegetables. This was good enough to make at home.

We got no farther on either side of Showcase Plaza, by now being overheated and worn out, so we left at noon. A word of warning – the main entry is under construction, so you have to walk a long stretch to get to the security bag check. Nor does the tram from the parking lot let you off in front anymore. You still have to walk around the construction site. It makes for an extra-long hike before you get anywhere.

Vines Grille and Wine Bar

We celebrated my husband’s birthday at Vines Grille and Wine Bar on Restaurant Row at W. Sand Lake Road in Orlando. On the Magical Dining menu, I chose the Vines Salad with mixed greens, pistachio, heirloom tomato, goat cheese, and citrus vinaigrette. Next came Faroe Island Salmon with fingerling potatoes, asparagus, confit tomatoes, and lemon-dill sauce. For dessert, I selected crème brulee. It was a memorable dinner with excellent food and service. I’d definitely make a return visit here.

The Tap Room at Dubsdread

The cozy atmosphere at this country club restaurant with its enticing golf course view in Winter Park invites you to linger with friends and family. However, I’m thinking it might be better for lunch. Prices are reasonable for either lunch or dinner, but our experience at the latter was less than stellar. We asked for the Magical Dining menu. I ordered the Buffalo Cauliflower topped with blue cheese crumbs and served with ranch dressing for an appetizer. Either the topping or the sauce was too spicy for my taste, but I couldn’t finish this dish. As an entrée, I’d chosen crab cakes with yellow rice and asparagus. They were out of asparagus. I selected broccoli as an alternative. It was served raw. Besides asking to replace it with a cooked portion, I had to ask for the rice since mashed potatoes had come with my meal. As for dessert, the Key lime pie came in a jar but looked tasty. My brownie sundae was okay, but I’ve had moister and fudgier brownie sundaes at the Red Lobster. This one satisfied my sweet tooth but wasn’t anything exceptional.

cauliflower

Crabcakes

sundae

Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill

This meal at Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill in Disney Springs was worthy of a return visit. Unfortunately, the items I chose are not part of the regular menu but were among the Magical Dining selections. The Late Summer Tomato Soup with garlic pecorino croutons and basil oil was savory and just the right consistency. The Braised Beef Short Ribs came with sunchoke purée and wild mushrooms ragu. The boneless meat was tender and shredded easily. For dessert, the mango tart with toasted almond crumble and coconut tapioca was lip-smacking delicious. The lively atmosphere and modern décor proved popular as there wasn’t an empty seat in the house. I saw standards like meatloaf on the regular menu that would bring me back. While a bit pricey for a normal dinner, this full-service restaurant is worth a visit on your list.

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Now it’s back to home cooking! If you want to see which recipes I’ll prepare in my own kitchen, take a look at A Bad Hair Day Cookbook, now available for pre-order in print and ebook formats.

Publix Cooking Class – Oregon

We attended a Publix Aprons Cooking School Class featuring the Willamette Valley in Oregon. I always enjoy these demonstrations with a sampling of different wines and recipes to take home.

Aprons Cooking School

We started out with a taste of Elouan Rose wine. It was light and on the dry side and a pleasant welcome drink.

STARTER COURSE

The first course was Coriander Encrusted Sea Scallops with Cauliflower Puree and Apricot-Shallot Jam. This was delicious. Normally I wouldn’t make scallops at home or order them in a restaurant because they can become rubbery if overcooked, but these were tender and done just right. They paired well with the jam. The accompanying wine was a Chateau St. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc that was a pale yellow color with a slightly fruity taste.

Starter Course

Cooking Tips from the Chef (any errors are due to my misinterpretation):

Iodized salt, like table salt, can turn bitter when you cook with it. He prefers Morton kosher salt, which does not contain iodine and is consistent in quality. A second choice would be sea salt, but characteristics can vary depending on place of origin.

The chef prefers grapeseed oil as you can cook at higher temperatures with it. He suggests you don’t use extra virgin olive oil for cooking as it burns at a lower temperature. Vegetable oil or regular olive oil is okay. Use the EVOO in salad dressings and such.

If oil isn’t hot enough, the food can absorb it. Test with a popcorn kernel. When it pops, the oil is the right temperature.

When preparing scallops, remove the abductor muscle.

SALAD COURSE

Baby Kale Salad with Pears, Burrata, Bacon, and Spiced Yogurt Vinaigrette was our salad. The dressing went well with it. The accompanying wine was A to Z Pinot Grigio. We liked this one.

Salad Course

Cooking Tips

Slice an onion from root to stem, not the other way.

Burrata cheese is a mozzarella cheese stuffed with a ricotta-like cheese. It comes in a ball, and you can find it in the specialty cheese section.

MAIN ENTREE

Pan Roasted Duck Breast with Orange-Cherry Gastrique and Shiitake Risotto was a tasty entrée and fairly easy to make. The accompanying wine was a Sidur 2017 Pinot Noir. This was okay but I like a Cabernet better.

Main Entree

Cooking Tips

You can buy the boneless duck breasts in the frozen food section. Defrost and slash the fat side to prevent it from curling when cooking.

Put honey for 20 seconds in the microwave to liquefy if it’s crystalized.

DESSERT

Peach Panna Cotta with Biscotti Crumble and Blueberry Compote wasn’t overly sweet and was paired with an A to Z Riesling.

Dessert

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Coronado Springs Resort Dining

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.

View from Toledo

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.

Dessert at Toledo

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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Royal Princess – The Food

The food in general on the Royal Princess tasted very good. Menu choices were average. For dinner, I enjoyed on different nights the prime ribs, filet mignon, tiger shrimp, and lobster tail. Vegetarian choices were available. We celebrated my birthday with a chocolate treat.

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Thanks to our travel agent Adam Wolf at The Cruise Web, we dined at the Crowne Grille, one of the specialty restaurants. Here I had lobster cake appetizer, mixed greens salad, beef filet with baked potato. Our table shared creamed spinach, sautéed mushrooms, and freshly cooked asparagus. I had a lemon meringue tart for dessert.

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This venue hosted a British pub lunch later on in the voyage. It was fun to eat my favorite cottage pie with a trifle for dessert.

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The buffet seemed to have little variety and was very disorganized. Without any labeled station except for Pastry, you had to hunt through each aisle to see what was offered. The selections for breakfast or lunch didn’t seem to change much from day-to-day. We didn’t go here for dinner so can’t comment on that meal. Nonetheless, you could get plenty to eat whenever you came by. What I did like was that they opened for continental breakfast at 5am and breakfast at 6am. Since we’re early risers, this suited our schedules.

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Outdoors by the pool, you could get pizza or hot dogs and hamburgers. An ice cream station offered vanilla or chocolate swirls, but I thought it tasted more like gelato than a creamy ice cream. Or you could dine at an Italian restaurant for free on one of the lower decks. The International Café was always a favorite. Coffee drinks cost money there, but the food was complimentary.

An annoyance was the lack of drink stations at the buffet. There were a couple of spots that offered coffee, tea or water. Otherwise, waiters circulated and took your drink order. You had to order lemonade. Sometimes we waited and nobody came by. On other ships, these waiters wheel carts around to offer refills. Not so here. They served you individually which made for less efficient service. These same wait staff had to continuously clean the tables to make them ready for new diners. The ship should offer more self-serve drink stations and include lemonade. Also, there weren’t any take-out cups available for coffee/tea. Only ceramic mugs were available.

Food in the dining room for dinner was very good.

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The desserts were noteworthy, and I enjoyed fruit crumbles with vanilla sauce, fresh baked cookies, almond or chocolate croissants, Baked Alaska, and more.

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And don’t forget the tropical drinks!

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Coming Next: Ports of Call