Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Grilled Davenport Salad

The Ingredients
For the Salad
2 Red Peppers
2 Portobello Mushrooms
2 handfuls Arugula*
1/4 cup Kalamata Olives, sliced
1/4 cup Feta Cheese, crumbled
Sliced Almonds for garnish
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
For the Vinaigrette
1 bulb baby Vidalia Onion**
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Sherry Vinegar
Salt and Pepper

The Plan
Grill Veggies.
Make Vinaigrette.

The Method
Do what you usually do and preheat your grill.
Toss Red Peppers, Mushrooms and Vidalia Onion with a bit of Olive Oil and Salt and Pepper.
Grill veggies. (When roasting Red Peppers, you really want the skin to get nice and black. You will have to turn them occasionally to get the skin burnt on all sides. Remove the Red Peppers from the grill and place either in a paper bag or in a covered bowl for a few minutes. Once the Peppers have cooled enough to be handles, gently remove the skin. You can do this carefully with your chef knife, but if that doesn't sound good to you, run them under cold water and remove the skin with the water running).

Slice the Vidalia Onion like you would a green onion, and cut the bulb into a small dice. Place into a bowl with Olive Oil. Slowly drizzle in Sherry Vinegar while whisking and stir until well combined. Season with Salt and Pepper.

Slice Red Peppers and Portobello Mushrooms. Combine with remaining salad ingredients. Add Vinaigrette, top with almonds and serve.

Yield: 2 Salads
Points: 5 per Salad

* If the word "handful" freaked you out, don't let it. Use your best judgment.
** Baby Vidalia Onions are just like how they sound. Early harvested, they kinda look like green onions attached to a bulb.
***Lastly, this recipe was really a team effort. Thanks PMR.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Orange Soy Sirloin Stirfry

The Ingredients
Juice of 1 Orange
1/2 cup Soy Sauce, low sodium
1 clove Garlic, minced
1 tsp Fish Sauce
1 Tbsp Oyster Sauce
1 1/2 lb sirloin, trimmed (of as much fat as possible) and sliced
1 yellow Onion, sliced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Red Pepper, sliced
1 head Broccoli, cut into florets
2 Tbsp Sesame Oil
4 Green Onions, sliced
Sesame Seeds for garnish

The Plan

Marinate Sirloin.
Chop Veggies.
Stir Fry.

The Method
Combine Orange Juice, Soy Sauce, Garlic, Fish Sauce and Oyster Sauce in a medium bowl. Stir to combine. Add Sirloin and marinate, at room temperature, for thirty minutes.

Heat wok (or large saute pan) over high/medium heat. Add 1 Tbsp Sesame Oil. Add Onion and cook until translucent. Add Garlic and cook until fragrant. Add Red Pepper, Broccoli Green Onion and stirfry until Broccoli becomes bright green. Remove from pan.

Add remaining Sesame Oil and let pan reheat. Add drained Sirloin, and cook until just heated through, about 2 minutes. Remove from pan and mix with veggies.

Add marinating liquid and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for about 5 minutes or until liquid slightly thickens.

Combine all elements. Top with Sesame seeds as garnish. Serve with whatever you want. I choose a brown/red rice combo.

Yield: 5 portions
Points: 4 per portion

Monday, February 7, 2011

Napa at The Peabody Orlando

I like food. A lot.

I like food that is fresh, exciting and innovative. I like food that surprises me with it's complexity of flavors in the same bite. Food that goes well with wine. And beer. Food that is bright and colorful. And fun. Food that is slow, and moseys to my plate without having to ride cross country with an Amtrak ticket in it's back pocket.

So when I'm able to experience all of this, I jump at both the opportunity and the chance to tell others. Napa is a new restaurant located in The Peabody Orlando and describes itself as "drawing on inspiration from Wine Country" while having a menu that is"comprised of organic, sustainable farm-to-fork selections". Intrigued, my friends and I enjoyed a fantastic lunch over at Napa a few weeks ago.

The newly renovated Peabody Orlando was hopping with people and quite impressive with it's increase in rooms and new dining options. Napa is located just off the main entrance on the lower level of the hotel. The space itself is gorgeous: modern and clean while retaining a certain degree of edginess. Plus the wine decor was pretty cool.

To start we shared the Crispy Cape Canaveral Calamari served with an Asian Curry Slaw and a Pepper Aioli. The calamari was a fantastic combination of melt in your mouth tenderness with a crispy shell. The slaw was a nice surprise. The crunchiness provided a good textural contrast while the curry added a whole new element to the plate.

I chose the House Ricotta and Crab Cavatelli for my entree. The homemade pasta, fresh and delicate, was tossed with Rapini, Cippolini Onions, Pancetta, Waterkist Farms (located in Sanford, Fl) Tomato Confit. Sounds like a lot...and it was. Full of flavor, this dish pleased me on many different levels. I loved the sweetness of the onions with the savoriness of the pancetta together with the pasta. The portion size was also large enough for me to take home half of the entire dish.

We finished our meal with the Meyer Lemon Tart topped with a Basil Sorbet. The dessert was a hit, and the bright flavors of the tart with the clean sorbet were a perfect light ending to the meal.

And, true to it's name, Napa did have a great wine selection. We enjoyed the MacMurray Ranch Pinot Gris (ironically from Sonoma) throughout the meal. New World Pinot Gris has really become a favorite of mine. It can be very versatile with subtle hints of acidity and rich floral undertones.

I'd eat at Napa again in a heartbeat. The service was excellent, and valet parking is validated for those who are not staying at the hotel. Florida does have many local food options, and it's great to see a restaurant that takes advantage of this while producing some really tasty food that goes well with wine. And is exciting. And is slow. See, turns out I don't ask for too much after all!

Napa at The Peabody on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Chef's Series.

Happy New Year and all that good stuff. If improving your culinary repertoire is on your list of resolutions, you have come to the right blog! Some great culinary classes will be featured at the school during 2011, and they are open to the public. And taught by some amazingly talented chefs. Check out the site for more information:


Thursday, December 16, 2010

3 Things to do in Celebration

Taking a stroll around the Town Center in Celebration is one of my favorite things to do in Orlando. It's even better during the holidays and is a great way to get into the Christmas spirit. While you're there, make sure you check out three fun things to do in Celebration:

1. Enjoy the Snowfall. That's right folks, it snows nightly in Celebration. Through Friday December 31st, you can enjoy and experience the holiday season in a unique way in Orlando. Snow falls in the Celebration Town Center at the top of the hour between 6pm and 9pm. You can also enjoy other seasonal festivities such as Ice Skating, Horse and Carriage Rides, Photos with Santa and Train Rides for the kiddies.
  • Ice Skating: $10 for a minimum of 1/2 hour (Skates included) 4pm -10pm daily
  • Horse and Carriage Rides: $25 for the first two passengers, $10 per additional
  • Horse and Carriage Holiday Home Tour $25 per person
  • Train Rides: $5
  • Singing along with the Charles Dickens Carolers: Free
2. Enjoy dinner at Seito Sushi. Seito is a local chain with four locations across Orlando and is at the top of my list for sushi in Orlando. Amidst a hip yet comfortable setting, they have a wide variety of gourmet rolls that will kick start your taste buds. Try some of my favorites: Torchamaki (spicy crawfish and asparagus topped with white fish and "torched"), Sweetheart (Coconut Shrimp topped with crab and a sweet coconut sauce) and the Lava (California roll topped with baked Scallops and a creamy Masago sauce).

3. Have a glass of wine at Imperium Food and Wine. Located on Market Street in the Town Center, this is officially my favorite spot in Celebration. The quaint wine bar has prime outdoor seating for people watching and snow fall. Enjoy a fun assortment of wines and well as food items such as flatbreads, paninis, salads and wraps.

While enjoying your time in Celebration, don't forget to do one of the basics: relax and enjoy yourself. If you're staying one of the nearby local hotels such as Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa Orlando, head on over to enjoy the holiday celebration...and the Carolers!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

3 Thanksgiving Buffets in Orlando

Hooray! My favorite time of the year is just around the corner! Thanksgiving marks the time when all things are good. Starting with that perfect bite: turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing a gravy and ending with holiday cookies and the smell of all things Christmas. If you're visiting Orlando for the holiday or a local just looking for a place to have a nice meal, here are three suggestions to get out and about on the infamous turkey day.

1. Islands Dining Room at Universal's Royal Pacific Resort-a Lowes Hotel. The resort itself is a prime example of vacation luxury. The South seas exotic theme leads to that perfect feeling of zen that we are all looking for while traveling. The large, Indonesian style Islands Dining Room will provide the perfect backdrop for a festive Thanksgiving buffet. Traditional turkey meals will be offered as well as the all time favorite prime rib. There will also be a variety of food stations including: sushi, stir fry, omelet and waffle (until 2pm). Besides the food you can enjoy live music, hula dancers, face painting for the kids and the chance to get up close to some Universal characters.
11am - 8pm
$43.95 for adults with Champagne included
$17.95 for kids 12 and under, kids under 3 are free

2. The Vineyard Grill at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes. This Orlando resort is the ultimate example of upscale bliss. The hotel, spa, pools and all surrounding property are absolutely breathtaking. You can enjoy what will be a delicious buffet at their Vineyard Grill located in the heart of the plush surroundings that are already adorned in Christmas decor. Traditional Thanksgiving fare will be offered in addition to breakfast and carving stations.
$89 for adults
$39 for children

3. Capriccio Champagne Brunch at The Peabody Orlando. This resort has recently completed massive renovations that solidify it's standing as one of the top resorts in Orlando. I've taken a peek at their menu for their Thanksgiving buffet and was very impressed by the variety of options! Breakfast items and assorted brick oven pizzas join the list of Thanksgiving proteins such as turkey, prime rib and ham. A wide assortment of sides and desserts wrap up this list. Do me a favor, if you choose this buffet, try the butternut squash with parsnips, beets and truffled honey and let me know how it is!
$59.50 for adults
$25 for children 6-12, kids under 5 free

So head out, eat some good food and have fun! And most importantly, make sure you get that perfect bite!

*Reservations are required at all of these locations. Prices and hours are subject to change.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Imperium Food and Wine

I'm not gonna lie. I don't exactly make it out to Celebration too often. In fact, every time I do swing by that part of town, I'm always amazed as to how I actually got there. If you asked for directions right now, I'm not even sure that I could point to Celebration on a map. Point being, I had a nice surprise last week when I stopped by Imperium Food and Wine for a quick midweek meal.

The restaurant is spacious and relaxed but we took advange of the outside seating to enjoy the weather. The wine list was impressive, organized in my preferred price by the glass listing. I went for the classic inexpensive Wrongo Dongo-a Monastrell from Spain. (Remember, a very wise woman once told me, "You can't go Wrongo with the Dongo!")

The food menu has a wide variety of options from flatbreads to paninis and wraps. We started with two soups: the Tomato Basil -rich and creamy with just the right amount of spices and the Potato Leek which was thick and hearty (and I believe homemade!) on a cool evening. We also shared two half orders of flatbreads: The Thai Shrimp and the "Aloha". The shrimp flatbread was fantastic with it's crunchy Napa cabbage and (almost too) spicy peanut sauce. The Aloha with it's thinly sliced ham, pineapple and sweet red pepper sauce was delicious.

I'm sure I'll be back to Imperium Food and Wine at some point to enjoy a nice glass of wine and a bite to eat. Probably the next time I'm lost in Celebration, of course.

Imperium Food & Wine on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Winter Park Harvest Festival

Looking for something to do on Saturday? Head out and support local fare at the first annual Winter Park Harvest Festival. The day is chock full of activites and seminars as well as gardening and cooking demos. The festivities will be capped off with a farm to table dinner-5 courses with food provided by Luma, Ravenous Pig, K Restaurant, Mi Tomatina and Big Wheel Provisions among others.

I actually went to high school with the founder of this event, John Rife, which proves that this is truely all about the hometown. For his benefit and mine, I won't say what year we graduated.

You can get more info here.

Oh, and don't forget, Happy Beujolais Nouveau day!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Looking for your 15 minutes of fame?

Alright friends in Orlando, if you've been itching to get out there and make a fool out of yourself on television, you might have your chance. Two cooking reality shows are holding open casting calls in the next few weeks in our City Beautiful. Check them out if you're interested, but please do not tell them I sent you!

24 hour Restaurant Battle Open Call in Orlando Sunday November 14th.

Master Chef Season 2 Open Call in Orlando on Saturday November 20th.