It’s fun to explore a new area, and the St. Johns River has been on my to-do list since moving to the Orlando area. After I took my car for maintenance at a dealership in Sanford, we headed east for lunch at a restaurant that I’ve wanted to visit. St. Johns River Steak & Seafood is at 550 N. Palmetto Ave. in Sanford, FL. It’s at a wharf adjacent to the historic downtown. We were very pleased with the food and the views of the expansive waterway.
My husband had crabcakes. I had grilled grouper with asparagus and a baked potato. We couldn’t resist key lime pie for dessert. The meal was enough for leftovers even without a salad or bread.
I miss the ocean in Fort Lauderdale and seeing the cruise ships, freighters, and barges offshore. This is the closest we come here, but it doesn’t compare to the Intracoastal either with its water taxis and gleaming white yachts. Still, we enjoyed the tranquility as we feasted on our meals.
The drinks must have filled us up. Richard had a Mai Tai and I got a glass of red sangria. With our stomachs satisfied, we kept our couches company when we got home. Forget about getting any work done.
Recent other excursions have been to Central Florida Zoo, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Epcot for the Flower & Garden Festival.
Meanwhile, I’m plugging away at Star Tangled Murder. I’m over 36,000 words on page 123. My goal is approximately 80,000 words. This will be book #18 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries.
We had a wonderful day at Disney World’s Epcot Food & Wine Festival as we strolled around World Showcase to sample the foods. My writer pal and critique partner, Ann Meier, accompanied us. It was a trek from the parking lot without the trams running and around the new construction obstacles past Planet Earth. We detoured to go on one of my favorite rides at The Land pavilion. I love the boats that glide through the plant and hydroponics gardens where you learn about new growing techniques.
Our first stop was for the Beer-Braised Beef with Smoked Gouda Mashed Potatoes at Belgium. This was a tasty dish, although the meat could have been more tender.
The Griddled Cheese with Pistachios and Honey at Greece was delicious. The flavors were unusual and reminded me of melted Brie with jam on top. The honey and chopped pistachios were inspirational.
Who wouldn’t like the Wild Mushroom and Truffle Tart at the Rotunda Bistro in the American Adventure? It was a perfect melding of sauteed mushrooms atop a puff pastry shell.
At the Alps, Richard had a wine flight, and I had the Blueberry and Almond Frangipane Tart. Since I love marzipan, this was a yummy dessert. The portion was large enough for us to share.
And how could I pass up the Traditional Macaroni and Cheese with Herbed Panko at Mac & Eats? If you’re a mac and cheese fan, you’ll want to make a stop there. Creamy with a slight crunch from the topping, this dish is the ultimate comfort food.
We were lucky to have perfect weather, partially cloudy in the low seventies, before a cold front came through the next day with heavy rain. It wasn’t terribly crowded at Epcot, which made for almost no waits in line anywhere. There were still other foods I might have liked to try but I got too full to eat anymore. The lower temperature and drier air made walking pleasant as we strolled around World Showcase. I achieved over 12,000 steps this day but counteracted it with all the extra calories consumed.
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We were fortunate to have three family birthdays fall during Magical Dining month in Orlando. That makes it simple what to do to celebrate. Go out to eat! Here are the birthday dinners we attended and the delicious meals we consumed, along with one we did on our own. Never mind the added sugar and cholesterol consumption. I’ll deal with those later.
If you are lacking coconut rum in your liquor cabinet, feel free to use any other type of rum or flavored spirits in this basic cake recipe. You’ll get a delicious, moist cake any way you make it. Don’t worry about the calories. They dissolve in your mouth with each bite.
15.25 oz. box yellow cake mix
3.4 oz. box instant vanilla pudding
4 large eggs
½ cup water
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup coconut rum
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup powdered sugar
3 Tbsp. coconut rum
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, water, oil and rum in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat on low for 1 minute and on medium for 2 minutes more.
Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan. Sprinkle chopped nuts on the bottom. Pour batter evenly on top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes on center rack or until toothpick test comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a knife along edges to loosen cake and then invert onto plate.
Mix glaze in small bowl and drizzle over cake. After cake completely cools, cover and keep at room temperature until ready to serve.
Leftovers may be stored in the refrigerator or frozen for later use.
Publix Aprons Cooking School classes are always enjoyable. You can choose from demonstration or hands-on models. I prefer the chef demos because then we can sit at white-clothed tables, sip wine, and watch the chefs do all the work. We get to taste the food, which equates to a gourmet meal, sample different wines, and take the recipes home. Plus, these classes are reasonably priced for what you’d find elsewhere. Here we are with our machatonim, Es and Rick Cohen. (See Machatonim – The Jewish Chronicle (thejc.com) for a definition)
June 18, 2021 – Food Heaven: Indulgent Ingredients and Wines
We were greeted with a Luc Belaire Rare Rose, a pleasant sparkling rose wine. This set the jovial mood for the good food to come.
Crab and Fennel Bisque with Lemony Crème Fraiche – I really liked this tasty soup that was accompanied by a Jean Bouchard Chablis. The wine was fair in my opinion, a bit too light on body and flavor.
Lobster Rolls with Heirloom Tomatoes, Bacon and Tarragon Aioli – This dish was interesting to taste but a salad would have been a better course here. I could see substituting baby shrimp to make this at home. I’d also serve it for lunch rather than dinner. This came with a B&G Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc wine that had a slightly fruity aroma.
Dijon and Herb Crusted Beef Tenderloin with Roasted Shallow Jus and Smashed Potatoes – Very tender and deliciously prepared piece of beef worth the price of admission alone. I liked the Michael David Lust Zinfandel that accompanied this dish. It was dry with a moderate body and legs, in wine terms.
Bittersweet Chocolate Tart with Pretzel Crust and Mandarin Orange Whipped Cream – This chocolate dessert melted in one’s mouth. It was divine. I also enjoyed the Lola Pinot Noir although by then I’d had enough food and drink that I might have liked anything. This tart was the perfect dish to finish a delightful evening.
This past weekend, we attended a cooking class at Publix Aprons Cooking School. The guest speaker was from Noble Vines Winery, describing the wines that accompanied our meal. These are from the Delicato Family Wines in California. We started out with a welcome aperitif. I liked the Noble Vines 242 Sauvignon Blanc. It wasn’t too fruity and would make a pleasant drink just to sip or perhaps to accompany fish or poultry. Meanwhile, the chefs were busy creating our dishes and demonstrating how to make them.
Noble Vines 446 Chardonnay was paired with the first course, clams with linguini. While our friends indulged in this dish, I had written ahead to request mushrooms instead of clams. I am not a big shellfish eater except for shrimp. The linguini with mushrooms was delicious and would make a satisfying meal in itself. We liked the Chardonnay as well. In fact, all the wines tonight were really good.
Next up was pan-roasted duck breast served with mushroom farro and cherry vinaigrette. I’d never had farro before, and I liked this grain that reminded me of barley. The duck was tender. It was paired with Noble Vines 667 Pinot Noir. I could have eaten this dish for a meal alone.
The main dish was grilled Korean beef short ribs with coconut rice and wok-friend bok choy. Noble Vines 337 Cabernet Sauvignon was the accompanying wine. The short ribs were done just right, but I’ve had better. Actually, the ones I tasted recently in my blog post about the Epcot Festival of the Arts were much more tender. I prefer short ribs slowly braised or done in a slow cooker so that the meat practically falls off the bone. The rice was okay but the bok choy had more taste.
We left enough room for the dark chocolate raspberry tart and the Noble Vines 515 Rose wine. What’s not to like about chocolate?
By now, we were more than stuffed and woozy from all the wine. It had been an enjoyable evening with entertainment and an appealing meal experience. The best part is that we got to take the recipes home.
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I enjoy attending Aprons Cooking Schoolclasses 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Disclaimer: Any errors are due to my misinterpretation.
Kitchen Gift Box Giveaway Nov. 18 – Dec. 4
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$400 Amazon Black Friday Shopping Spree, Nov. 4 – 23
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
We started out with a taste of Elouan Rose wine. It was light and on the dry side and a pleasant welcome drink.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Peach Panna Cotta with Biscotti Crumble and Blueberry Compote wasn’t overly sweet and was paired with an A to Z Riesling.
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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