Magical Dining Sept 2022

Magical Dining month in Orlando is an opportunity to try new restaurants or to revisit a favorite one at reasonable prices. For a fixed amount of $40 per person, you get a three-course dinner. Our first stop this year was The Back Room Steakhouse in Apopka. We actually went twice, because my husband got a gift card there as a birthday gift. The atmosphere was elegant with good service. The first time, we had Thai Chili Coconut Shrimp, 10 oz. Prime NY Strip, and Key Lime Pie. The shrimp and the dessert were really good. The steak was okay. I wish they’d offered a beef fillet instead. I’m not a big steak person but chose this entrée because I don’t eat much meat at home.

       

The next visit, we indulged in the Braised Short Rib Egg Rolls, Sauteed Norwegian Salmon Filet, and — how could I resist? — Key Lime Pie again. The egg rolls were deeply fried and rather heavy, making me prefer the lighter spring rolls from Trader Joes. The shrimp was much better as an appetizer. The salmon was perfect and I chose a baked potato and broccoli as an accompaniment.

   

My overall impression? If you live west in Apopka, this is a nice choice for a fancy occasion although the prices can be steep. It might be worth another trip for Magical Dining depending on the menu. However, where we live, we do have lots of other options.

Our second experience was at TerraMia Ristorante E Trattoria in Altamonte Springs. Here we shared the Antipasto TerraMia and the Burrata Pugliese for appetizers. Both were excellent. For an entrée, I had the Agnello Abbruzzese, a barolo braised lamb shank served with genovese sauce. It was very tender with lots of meat that fell off the bone. Richard had fish, the Branzino Mediterraneo pan-roasted in a white wine garlic sauce with cherry tomatoes and served over pasta. He enjoyed his dish. For dessert, I chose the Torta Alla Pera, a classic neapolitan cake filled with cream and pear. This did not impress me. I didn’t taste any cream inside and there was a small half slice of pear on top. I can make a better cake myself. Richard got the Selvanera Cake, an Italian version of black forest cake.

                     

Overall, the food was excellent, but the atmosphere was extremely noisy. Maybe it’s better on a weekday, but the bar overwhelms the restaurant and does not make for a cozy, intimate experience. If you’re looking to sit at a lively bar, you might like this scene. We prefer a quieter evening.

Wines of Washington Cooking Class

If you’re a home cook who enjoys trying new recipes, you might want to attend a cooking class at Publix Apron’s Cooking School if you have one nearby. We’ve been to many of these classes before and this experience was just as enjoyable. We prefer the demonstration-style class rather than a hands-on lesson so we can sit and enjoy the food without any effort. The chefs offer tips and tricks as they show us how to make the various dishes, and a different wine accompanies each course. It’s the best bargain out there for a gourmet meal.

   

Our welcome wine was a Hawks Crest Rose that was a golden rose color and had a light body. It was not a favorite of mine. A toast to our friends, Es and Rick Cohen, for sharing the evening with us.

   

The first course was Grilled Pear and Goat Cheese Bruschetta with Bacon and Honey. I thought the bacon and cheese flavors overwhelmed the pear but overall, the tastes blended well. The topping was melty while the bread was crispy toasted. The chef used a ceramic knife instead of a metal one for the fruit so it wouldn’t discolor when exposed to air. This first course came with a KungFu Girl Reisling that tasted slightly fruity and had a pale-yellow color. It would be good to sip alone or would go great with baked Brie and crackers.

     

 

Next was Seared Salmon Sliders with Tarragon Aioli and Watercress. Using fresh salmon, this dish would require some effort to make and would be just as good without the bread. The aioli added a nice flavor to this tasty and substantial dish. The wine was a 14 Hands Pinot Grigio with a golden color. It paired well with the salmon.

The main dish was Maple-Lacquered Duck Breast with Roasted Apples and Brussel Sprouts. I’d forgotten how much I like duck until I bit into this tender meat. Yum, it was so good. I miss French restaurants with duck and orange or cherry sauce. This paired with a Chateau St. Michelle Merlot in a deep burgundy color and a medium body. I like this brand of wines that we’ve had before.

     

Last was the dessert, a Rainier Cherry Crumble topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Lip-smacking good! This sweet treat was accompanied by a Chateau St. Michelle Red Blend wine.

  

Publix Apron's Cooking Class - Wines of Washington #foodie #cooking Click To Tweet

We came home with the recipes and the glow of good times with friends.

Dining Around the World

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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Birthday Bounties

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.

The Tap Room at Dubsdread
Buffalo Shrimp
10 oz. Herb Encrusted Prime Rib
Key Lime Pie

Buffalo Shrimp  Prime Rib  Key Lime Pie  

Le Coq Au Vin
Tarte l’Oignon

Beef Bourgignon
Crème Brulee

Tarte L'Oignon  Beef Borgignon  Creme Brulee         

Delaney’s Tavern
Roasted Mushroom and Burratta Flatbread

Almond Crusted Salmon
Bourbon Peach Cobbler

Mushroom and Burratta  Almond Crusted Salmon Peach Cobbler

Fig’s Prime
Goat Cheese Croquette
9 oz. Filet Mignon
Rum Chocolate Torte
Goat Cheese Croquette  Filet Mignon Rum Chocolate Torte

If you could wish for your favorite meal, what would be your appetizer, entrée and dessert?

Enzo’s on the Lake

We had a delightful dinner at Enzo’s on the Lake courtesy of a special friend (Joan, you know who you are). This restaurant is located at 1130 South U.S. Hwy. 17-92 in Longwood, Florida overlooking Lake Fairy. The original house was built as an Italian-style villa on the lake in 1955. Enzo and Jo Anne Perlini purchased the property in 1980 and converted it into an Italian family restaurant. Be warned to expect complimentary valet parking. There didn’t appear to be a self-parking option unless we missed it.

Enzo's on the Lake  

We started out with a Caprese salad with sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. I might have liked the addition of balsamic glaze for more flavor, but this version satisfied our appetites. ($12.50). It was more than enough for two. We each had one big tomato slice with soft mozzarella cheese, and we split the third one that came on the plate.

Caprese Salad

Bread service included a crusty Italian bread, plus bread sticks and another sort-of flatbread. These came with the meal.

My main course was Gamberoni Alla Griglia. This grilled jumbo shrimp was butterflied and topped with a sweet pepper and garlic vinaigrette, accompanied by smoked mozzarella risotto. ($29.50) The shrimp easily came out of the open-faced shells and had a distinct flavor. I really liked the risotto. This dish also came with broccolini.

Richard had the Scallopine Al Agrodolce. This was veal scallopine slices sautéed in extra virgin olive oil with a prosciutto, garlic and Pinot Grigio sauce. It came with peas. My husband’s only complaint was that for the price ($28.50), he would have liked some potatoes. And peas aren’t too fancy either for an expensive restaurant. I agreed that this selection could have come with better side dishes.

We don’t always get dessert, but since we hadn’t been inside a restaurant for so long, we splurged. I got panna cotta so I could try this light, vanilla flan-type dessert, and Richard got the chocolate Chambord cheesecake. His choice was rich and chocolatey and more strongly flavored than mine.

After dinner, we strolled outside to view the lake and the gardens before exiting. The grounds are lovely and make this setting truly special. This restaurant is a perfect choice for a special occasion. The ambiance is romantic and intimate, and the service is excellent. Outdoor seating is extremely limited and should be reserved in advance.

 

Enzo's on the Lake Review by @nancyjcohen #Orlando #Dining Click To Tweet

Adventures in Dining Orlando

This year for my birthday dinner, I chose to eat at Boma, the African buffet restaurant inside the Animal Kingdom Lodge at Disney World. The lobby is impressively massive with a huge Christmas tree at this season.

Animal Kingdom Lodge

We arrived early to stroll outside and view the animals roaming the plains within range of our cameras.

Then we headed to the check-in desk at Boma. After reaching our seats, we gave drink orders before heading to the buffet. What an amazing array of choices! I started with a salad, a corn muffin and a spoonful of hummus on pita bread. Since I’d had soup for lunch, I bypassed this selection.

Next I joined the line for a slice of carved prime ribs and a piece of barbecued chicken. I skipped the turkey since we’d be eating this soon for Thanksgiving. Although I’d eaten shrimp recently, I couldn’t help a few of the peel and eat shrimps on display.

The accompaniments were varied and with an African theme. I had mashed sweet potatoes, a corn pudding, corn and peas, macaroni and cheese, a pearl couscous dish, rice with coconut milk and peanut sauce, a mushroom egg soufflé, and more that I can’t remember. It was SO good that I would definitely return, although the $49 per person price is a bit steep. You do get a 10% discount as a Disney passholder.

Desserts are the to-die-for variety. Here’s a sampling of what we had. Bread pudding with vanilla sauce was one dish, plus all the brownies or cookies you could eat. I liked the novelty items, which tasted divine.

It’s not a meal you can have too often, though. I probably gained a few pounds this night. The pumpkin pancakes I ate for breakfast the next day at KeKe’s didn’t help, either. Now we are home and I am eating healthy until our next trip to Orlando.

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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Epcot Flower Festival

We spent a couple hours at the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival the other weekend. Construction is going on at the front entrance, so we veered around the barriers to the package inspection station. From here, we headed into one of my favorite spots, the building with free cola drinks from around the world. I like the raspberry-flavored one the best.

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival

Next we ventured outside and to the right toward Canada. One of our party had the Citrus-Poached Salmon at the Flavor Full Kitchen. I tried the Roasted Beets with Cashew Cheese. It was delicious. Between this dish and the beets we ate recently at a Publix cooking class, I could make a meal from this vegetable.

salmon

At the Honey Bee-Stro, we sampled the Roasted Cauliflower with Carrot Puree, Rice Pilaf and Asparagus. It was good, but I like my roasted cauliflower recipe better. Also from this booth, a member of our group had the Honey Tandoori Chicken Flatbread. It looked good, although maybe not as crispy as I like flatbreads.

flatbread

Our kids sampled the Fruit Sushi called Frushi from Hanama in Japan and a few other items. By now, I was too hot to eat any of the meat dishes and the heat had sapped my appetite. We finished our rounds and left for the day.

fruit sushi

Later, my husband and I visited Disney Springs. We had lunch at Paddlefish. While enjoying a lovely view of the lake, we ate New England Clam Chowder and the Crabcake appetizer with corn relish that was more than enough for a meal. We watched the amphicars glide past from the Boathouse Restaurant.

clam chowder

amphicar

Others meals we had were at Seasons 52 and Bahama Breeze. And now that we’re home, it’s time to go back on our healthful diets.

Seasons 52   Bahama Breeze

Publix Cooking Class with Guest Chef

Publix Cooking Class – Guest Chef Timon Ballo

We attended a Publix Aprons Cooking School class last evening featuring guest executive chef Timon Ballo from the Sugarcane Raw Bar and Grill with locations in Miami, Las Vegas, and Brooklyn. This popular restaurant features globally-inspired small plates and Spanish-style tapas. The evening’s cooking class was fully booked. We were greeted with a glass of black cherry sangria.

cooking school guest chef

sangria

Next came a Chilled Spanish Ajo Verde Soup that was better than I’d expected. Smoked paprika gave this cold soup a bit of a spicy kick. It would be a good menu choice for the summer. Green grapes and English cucumbers provided the green color, while marcona almonds added a touch of crunch. Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc was served with this soup.

ajo verde soup

The second course was Roasted Beets with Whipped Goat Cheese and Pistachio Crumble. I could eat this for a meal along with a salad. It was so good. We learned how to clean and trim fresh beets, then coat them with olive oil before wrapping each one in aluminum foil. These are roasted until tender and then peeled. The goat cheese whipped with heavy cream provided a perfect garnish amid a sprinkle of arugula and crushed pistachios. The chefs dribbled honey on top before serving. La Crema Pinot Noir was the wine with this course.

chef working beets

Pan Roasted Salmon with Spring Vegetables was the main entrée. This was wild caught sockeye salmon, with citrus accents and a medley of fresh sautéed spring vegetables. Another delicious dish. Roth Chardonnay was the perfect wine choice here.

salmon

Dessert was a melt-in-your-mouth Buttermilk Panna Cotta with White Port-Soaked Fruit. This was a pudding-like confection with a berry garnish. Sandeman Ruby Port was a sweet accompaniment to end the evening.

panna cotta

If you have a Publix Aprons Cooking School near you, check out their classes. It’s more fun than an expensive meal in a fancy restaurant and much better priced.

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Valentine's Day Cooking Class

For something different than the usual dinner at a restaurant for Valentine’s Day, we signed up for a Publix Aprons Cooking School class. We’ve enjoyed these before, and the night’s menu looked appealing. It was a popular choice. The place was full with 48 people present to watch the demo-style class.
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As we waited for the show to start, one of the chefs poured us each a welcome glass of Cupcake Sparkling Rosé wine. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I grew up on rosés before learning to appreciate drier varieties. Remember Lancer’s?
First course was a Pistachio Shortbread with Goat Cheese, Strawberries, and Mint-Honey paired with a Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc. This was almost like dessert. The shortbread was a tasty cookie. The wine went well with this selection but it was a bit too fruity for my taste. I’d like it better before dinner.
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The next course was really good and very hearty. I could have made a meal out of this alone. We got a generous portion of Seared Sea Scallop Chowder with Smoky Sourdough Croutons paired with Bread & Butter Chardonnay. This wine went on my “I Like It” list. The soup was delicious. You could vary the recipe at home and make it with shrimp or lobster instead. If you use scallops, remove the abductor muscle from the sides.
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The main dish showed me a cooking technique I’d never heard of before. It used a temperature-regulated water bath. You insert the food in a vacuum sealed plastic bag, so you’d also need the vacuum device. I’ll never make this at home with all the extra equipment required, but the meat was tasty and tender. The dark things are purple potatoes. Sous Vide Lamb Loin with Butter-Roasted Radishes, Carrots, and Baby Potatoes paired with a La Crema Pinot Noir. I liked the dry red wine. Tip for pearl onions: cut off the bottoms and blanch in boiling water for a minute, and the skin peels right off.
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The dessert, a Butterscotch-Toffee Budino (pudding) was paired with a Veuve Cliequot Brut Champagne. Apparently, the tinier the bubbles, the more expensive the brand. This one had lots of tiny bubbles. The pudding was like a dense flan, a rich dessert that melts in your mouth.
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We had a gourmet meal and wine for a decent price, plus we got to see an entertaining cooking demo and take home the recipes. Let’s check their calendar and see what’s appealing that is coming up next.
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