STK Restaurant Disney Springs

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Eleven at Reunion Resort

Eleven at Reunion Resort

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Dessert, a chocolate lava cake, was sinfully rich. I ate the whole thing. It’s diet city for me once we go home.

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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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Dining Out Orlando

September is Magical Dining Month in Orlando. You can visit myriad fancy restaurants for a fixed-price three course meal at $33.00 per person. It’s a fun way to try new places that might normally be too expensive.

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse

This two-story restaurant on International Drive has been open for a few weeks. The décor is contemporary, with most patrons seated in a cavernous room overlooking the parking lot. A few separate sections are available for private dining. Wine bottles in wall-sized racks add to the décor. An open kitchen is behind a barrier so you can’t see much. The atmosphere is lively but it lacks the cozy intimacy of other steakhouses.

We requested the Magical Dining Month menu. The Caesar salad was tangy and came in a generous portion. The loaf of bread served with butter was soft but unremarkable. The filet mignon at 8 oz was melt-in-your-mouth tender with a good flavor. This was the best part of the meal. The mashed potatoes and thin green beans—not so good. We ordered sautéed mushrooms on the side. These appeared to be Portobello mushrooms with pearl onions. As we’re not fans of green beans, we also got a side order of asparagus with sliced almonds. My companions liked the warm banana bread pudding with whipped cream for dessert. I had the chocolate mousse that came in a chocolate cup with raspberry sauce. The mousse itself was like a light pudding. It didn’t have the froth or airiness of similar dishes I’ve had elsewhere. Out of my entire meal, I’d say the beef was worth the ticket but the rest was fair.

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Service was attentive. Our water glasses were always refilled. However, we waited a long time for the check. When it arrived, we’d been charged full price for one of the meals plus a separate charge for a salad, rather than the fixed price meal. This would have come to $39.50 for the filet plus $9.50 for the salad, or $49 instead of $33. This error didn’t please us, nor did the food enough to pay that much at normal pricing. Would we return? It’s doubtful. My favorite steakhouse is still The Capital Grille, or for a less expensive meal, the Outback.

Hemingway’s at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress

I liked the casual but upscale ambiance with an open kitchen, ceiling fans, floor to ceiling windows overlooking lushly landscaped grounds, wood tables, and potted plants. We had to ask for the Magical Dining Month menu. I ordered the Key Wester salad with greens, avocado, bacon, fresh red bell pepper and blue cheese dressing. Crusty puffs of bread like popovers were served with butter.

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The butterflied shrimp scampi was very tasty, served with some kind of pasta roll and fried green tomatoes. Crab cakes were another choice. The Key lime tart for dessert was lip-smacking good.

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Despite the delicious meal and the pleasant ambiance, service was poor. Our waiter ran between several tables and rarely stopped by. Another server refilled our water glasses, and she was efficient. We had an unusually long wait for the check. Then as we were waiting out front of the main hotel lobby for the valet (your ticket is validated at the restaurant), our waiter ran out to meet us because he had failed to scan our credit card, believing us to be hotel guests. He took our card and walked all the way back to the restaurant—down a long hotel corridor and outside along a boardwalk to a separate building. After fifteen minutes when he didn’t return, my husband had to retrace our steps to the restaurant to retrieve his credit card. This soured our entire experience. So this place has good food and a nice ambiance but the service needs improvement. Would we return? The normal food prices are reasonable and I enjoyed the meal, but after the credit card shuffle, my husband put this restaurant on the no return list. And note the expensive bottle of wine he ordered, we found online later at Total Wine for about twenty bucks.

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Dining in Orlando

Our drive via the Florida turnpike north to Orlando this past weekend encountered an unexpected hazard. Lovebugs flew at us from all directions. They splatted onto our windshield and car grill and beset upon us when we stopped for gas. We’d never seen them so thick and omnipresent. In case you’re unfamiliar with this plague of beasts, these tiny mating critters leave a sticky residue that’s difficult to scrub away. When we know it is lovebug season, we’ll spray the car grill with Pam before hitting the highway. We didn’t expect them on this trip and got assaulted.

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For our first night, we headed over to Bahama Breeze for drinks and appetizers to serve as a meal. We had coconut shrimp, chicken quesadillas and grilled salmon salad. A live musician sang Caribbean songs to steel drum music. Sitting outside, we enjoyed the tropical ambiance and the food.

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Our meal the next evening at Ocean Prime took advantage of Orlando’s Magical Dining Month. Held every September, this event heralds fixed price meals at various fancy restaurants where normally an entrée would cost at least the amount of the special pricing. After shopping at Mall at Millenia and Nordstrom Rack earlier in the day, we were ready to relax.

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The atmosphere at this restaurant on “Restaurant Row” at Orlando’s West Sand Lake Drive is modern and pleasant. The bar area is especially decorative and lively. But the hostess tried to seat us in a side section with no other patrons and not as nice a view. After I insisted we be seated in the main dining room, we got a decent table. Service was excellent. The waiter brought warm sourdough bread with butter while we perused the special menu. I had the house salad while the others in our party had the French onion soup. Both portions were quite large, and I was nearly full by the time our entrees arrived. My filet mignon was tender but had a bit of fat. A small amount of mashed potatoes and thin green beans were the accompaniments. We all had carrot cake for dessert and were so full that we took home a portion. This layered cake was too sweet and not as good as others. Overall impression? Lovely atmosphere but too high priced and not as good as The Capital Grille to warrant a return visit.

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Coming Next: Epcot Food & Wine Festival

Magical Dining Month

Orlando has Magical Dining Month throughout September, in which time you can sample gourmet restaurants at $33 per three course meal. Each year, we like to go somewhere new. So for this visit, we chose the Deep Blu Seafood Grille in the Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort. The hotel is situated on Chelonia Parkway in Bonnet Creek, just off Buena Vista Drive near Disney World.

Valet parking is complimentary when you eat at the restaurant. Just ask the host to validate your ticket. The hotel is lovely with at least two freeform pools, three restaurants/cafes, a spacious lounge, a coffee bar and a gift shop.

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We settled into our seats at the formal dining establishment at lobby level and perused the special event menu. For an appetizer, you have your choice of a baby spinach salad, lobster bisque, or a signature crab cake.

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Entrée choices were ahi tuna, tiger shrimp linguini, or braised beef short ribs. You’ll note that each restaurant on Magical Dining Month offers its own special menu. The short ribs were very tender and came with mashed potatoes and vegetables.

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Dessert was the most difficult to choose but I got the Key lime gelee, a fancy version of Key lime pie. Vanilla crème brulee and chocolate mousse cake were hard to resist.

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We were very pleased with our choice and glad for the chance to sample this high class restaurant. Just to note, Sleuthfest 2014 will be held at this hotel on Feb. 27 – March 2. Registration is now open. Hope to see you there!

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Nancy J. Cohen News Update

Warrior Prince: Book One in the Drift Lords Series is nearing its release date of Sept. 21, 2012. That means all sorts of exciting things are happening this month. I talk about my new book in The Big Thrill and have giveaways at Coffee Time Romance and Night Owl Reviews.

Author Interview in The Big Thrill: http://bit.ly/NFmsvJ

Coffee Time Romance: Enter to win a Warrior Prince T-shirt and magnet, a deck of tropical drink playing cards, and a pdf copy of Warrior Prince: http://bit.ly/bGEqXD

Night Owl Reviews Halloween Hunt: My prize is a $15 gift card to The Wild Rose Press. Go to http://bit.ly/PXn9MQ

On Sept. 5th, mystery author Joanna Campbell Slan guest blogs here. She discusses correct word choices. Do you as a reader get annoyed when the same phrase keeps popping up in someone’s book? Or do you as a writer often not realize you’re using a word repetitively? If so, this article is for you. I hope you’ll visit and leave a comment.

Between Sept. 6-19, I will be posting short excerpts from Warrior Prince. Leave a comment and be entered into a drawing for your ebook choice from my romance backlist titles. Two winners!

When these excerpts are finished, it’s time for my Release Party and Blog Tour.

I hope you’ll bear with me through all this news. I’ll resume my regular blog posts sometime next month. Meanwhile, I am working on edits for Warrior Rogue: Book Two in the Drift Lords Series, which is already in production.

On a personal note, I took a break before all this frenzy and went to Disney World. We visited Magic Kingdom where we glimpsed the new attractions coming to Fantasyland. We bought fresh produce at the Farmer’s Market in Winter Garden and ate dinner at Le Coq Au Vin, a recommended French restaurant in downtown Orlando. I had the onion tart (heavenly!), beef tournedo (tender!) with mashed potatoes and apple tart (just right; not too sweet).

Farmers Market

Onion Tart  Beef Tournedo
September is Magical Dining Month in the Orlando area and many expensive restaurants participate. You can get a fixed three course meal for $30. Another favorite dining spot was Thai Blossom in the historic Edgewater Hotel in Winter Garden. Tasty choices and reasonable prices year round.

See you tomorrow for Joanna Slan’s post!