Monday, October 29, 2007

The Ravenous Pig

So, after weeks of hearing good reports and being curious, I finally put my money where my mouth is and hit The Ravenous Pig for dinner last Saturday night.

After reading and hearing about the hoards of people waiting hours for a table, I went ahead and called for ressies. I was ecstatic for my 6pm time (the other choice being 9pm); I figured we would beat the crowds and avoid the wait. The restaurant is located in WP where Za Bella (and then Popollo-but who ever went there?) was located. They’ve done some nice renovations on the inside-the atmosphere was very comfy and inviting.

We started with a bottle of Adami “Garbel” Prosecco just to celebrate, well, life I guess. My dinner companions and I decided to start the meal with a carb overload, so along with the house biscuits (super yummy with a hint of sweetness) we ordered the homemade pretzels from the bar menu. They were quite good, served with a grainy mustard and a taleggio-porter “fondue”.

My veg-friendly friend ordered the Forager and the Gatherer salads for her main course (as usual the only veg option being pasta. Or pretzels). The other meat eater and myself both got the Harris Ranch Ribeye, which is now offered as a single entrée. Unfortunately my entrée was a bit on the done side, so while another portion was being prepared I enjoyed my sides: a tomato tart, roasted fingerling potatoes, and fresh arugula. The tart was absolutely delicious. Large roasted tomatoes covered the savory tart and I quickly ate the entire thing.

I love having some greens with a nice cut of beef; I only would have liked just an inkling of a vinaigrette (or something of the sort) to go with the arugula. By the time I got a new ribeye, I was pretty much done eating, which was a good thing considering the condition of the second portion. I guess I was a bit like Goldilocks, this time the meat was really quite rare. No worries though, we enjoyed a bottle of the Santa Rita “Medalla Real” Cab 2004 from the Maipo region of Chile. (And yes, my entrée was comped.)

I often have people (ok, usually students) ask where the best desserts are in Orlando. I’m thinking they may actually be in WP. To continue with the theme of overindulgence, we ordered three desserts: the tart, the pudding and the cake and ice cream. Oh, and a bottle of the Schloss Wallhausen “Two Princes” 2006 Riesling from Nahe. The desserts immediately impressed me before I even tried them. It’s nice to see the thoughtfulness of multiple elements on a dessert plate. The pear tart was accompanied by a honey tuile (which held up well in the humidity), cinnamon ice cream, and a spoonful of Riesling granita. All were fantastic.

The chocolate-hazelnut bread pudding was a bit dry, but the with accompanying caramel ice cream (my personal fav) it was delicious. Lastly we had three mini chocolate cakes topped with a caramel buttercream and served with a mini coffee milkshake. It even had a mini straw!

I had a fantastic time at The Ravenous Pig. There was one glitch that was quickly fixed by the professional manager and our server was very amiable. I even liked the semi loud music. (Classic rock. I love eating to Queen.) The masses were certainly not there-why we were forced to such an early ressie is anyone’s guess. But I’m thrilled to have a new and imaginative menu being offered in town.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Butternut Squash Risotto

It's that time of year!
With the abundance of squash in the stores I thought I'd throw this one up! I love risotto and like to remind everyone that it's a lot easier than you think!

Butternut Squash Risotto

1 Butternut squash (small)
1 Tbsp olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
1 Tbsp minced garlic
½ cup white wine
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup Arborio rice
½ cup dried cranberries
1 ½ tsp dried sage
2 Tbsp butter
salt and pepper to taste
gorgonzola to taste

Preheat oven to 400F.

Carefully, peel and cube squash. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast on a foil lined baking sheet for 30-45 minutes until tender.

Heat chicken broth on stove and keep warm .
Heat olive oil on medium heat in a large sauce pan. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add rice and stir for about 10 seconds to coat the rice in oil.

Add white wine. When wine is absorbed, add the broth ½ cup at a time, repeating when broth is absorbed into the rice. Keep heat low and stir often to prevent sticking.

After adding the last portion of broth, add the dried cranberries. When all the liquid is absorbed, remove from heat and add sage, butter and squash.
Add gorgonzola to taste, or use as garnish.

*When facing gigantic squash in the store (I bought one last week that was 61/2 lbs!) utilize that extra yumminess and make some butternut squash soup. It freezes perfectly!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Market Research

Wow. I’ve become one of those people. You know the type; the ones that start a blog, tell practically everyone they know about it, and then let it fizzle out after a few months.

Two issues have been hindering my updates. The first being that I still do not have a working camera. I know, I could go buy one. But apparently I’m waiting for a free one to fall out of the sky and into my lap. Plus I’ve been relying on other people to send me their pictures. Which sometimes takes a bit (hint hint Bob!).

My other excuse is that I am taking the CMS course and intro exam later this week. Meaning I’ve been curled up on my couch for the better part of the past few weeks, reviewing and learning. And doing “market research” to better expand my repertoire and palette. I’d like to take a minute to thank all of my friends who have so unselfishly helped me in this quest to try as many wines as possible. It’s been a tough ride.

That being said, I’ve actually eaten out quite a bit this past week. Tuesday we had a family dinner (to celebrate my step bro and his family being in town) at Adriatico Trattoria in College Park. My dad and step mom have been there numerous times with good reports, so I was excited for some authentic cuisine. I didn’t get the whole story but apparently the owner was the Chef at Antonio’s Upstairs for a number of years. The restaurant is small but cozy and quite comfortable. The wine list had a great variety of Italians (and a few random Californians) but Bob jumped the gun (one day he will let me order the vino!) and ordered the Zeneto Ripassa that turned out to be delicious but a bit rich and sweet. I ordered the Veal Rack (I don’t know what got into me, I haven’t had veal in years). Needless to say, it was perfect. Rich and tender, I ate the whole thing. And polished the meal off with a glass of Moscato d’Asti (aka Liquid Crack). Everyone enjoyed the food and company-I’d go back in a heartbeat. One quick note: bring your appetite! The servings were quite large.

Stopped for lunch on my way home from work on Friday at the new Drunken Monkey on Bumby. I’ve been waiting for them to open after seeing the progress over the past few months. Granted they’ve only been open for a few weeks, but it was, um, really really bad. The ordering system was confusing-do I pick sandwiches out of the cooler or off the board? And, I would have preferred to know that my Pumpkin Spiced Iced Tea was going to be flavored with a sickenly sweet syrup. That’s all I want to say, it’s not even worth my energy. Although I will add that if anyone has ever wondered how a cumin spiced black bean burger would taste on a rosemary focaccia, I’ll save you the curiosity. It’s not good.

Friday night we celebrated my step bro’s birthday at Harvey’s Bistro. I haven’t been in quite a few years, and well, have never experienced anything like our server Rocky. Really, it was a dinner show. I’m not exactly sure how to describe it, but I’ll just tell you that not only did he come out in a variety of costumes (my fav was the Brokeback cowboy with the stuffed sheep) but actually had props hidden in the plants (I’m not kidding, he spanked the birthday boy with a spatula). Quite the opposite of a stuffy fine dining experience, I haven’t laughed that hard since lunch when I tried that black bean panini. Seriously, I was falling off my chair. I don’t know if I was mortified at the inappropriateness of some of the comments or completely amused. But I’m certainly booking my birthday there this year.

Oh, and the food was pretty food too! I don’t think the menu has changed in the past decade, but the pot roast was still fork tender and delicious. In lieu of birthday cake we sampled every dessert of the menu and I was quite impressed. My fav was the berry (ménage a trios) crumble and their version of bananas foster. Being so close to my place, I’m officially adding Harvey’s to my list of regular haunts, if anything for the pure entertainment value.

That’s it for me for now. It’s a rainy Sunday afternoon and I’m enjoying a glass of CA Viognier (market research). I would like to leave you with a wine book recommendation. I just finished Mark Oldman’s Guide to Outsmarting Wine, which was a smart and quirky take on the subject.

Just for kicks here's a pix of me doing market research at Halloween Horror Nights with the (story of my life) gas clown.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Da Beach

Had a great weekend at the beach (the weather was surprisingly good and there was no red tide in sight!) but I regret to inform you that I have no pictures from the weekend. Much thanks to my friend who gave me her old camera, but it turns out it really is defunct and is no longer working. So as soon as it is in my budget, I’ll get myself a new camera, hopefully one that will fit into my purse and doesn’t weigh over three pounds.

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love the beach. And how loyal I am to certain restaurants in the New Smyrna area. Two of them I’ve been going to as long as I can remember. The most recent newcomer to my fav beach restaurants category is Chases, which is where we went on Friday night. I know not to expect impressive cuisine there, but usually the fish is pretty good and the view is fantastic (it’s right on the beach). Unfortunately, it was raining pretty hard that night, so grimy plastic roll-down covers obstructed the view, and the food was really the worst I’ve had in awhile. I got the Mahi sandwich (sans bread) and veggies. My Mahi tasted pretty good, but arrived to the table in about 5 pieces. It was almost like the cook was trying to put the puzzle back together. Like Humpty Dumpty. I hope he was wearing gloves. My frozen veggies were served cold and flavorless. But after all of that, the ocean breeze did make its way to us, and they had Blue Moon, so I guess I can’t complain too much.

Saturday night was definitely a treat. One of the restaurants that really sticks out in my childhood is Norwood’s. I remember being a child and my parents would let me order the King Crab. I only got it once a year, and I have vivid recollections of all that hard work for the sweet crabmeat. So off we went, with me fully intent on crab legs for the evening. I quickly changed my mind when I heard about one of their specials for the evening: Surf N Turf for $19.46 (to celebrate the year that they opened). Granted it was a 4 oz Filet and a little bitty Lobster tail, but this meal was delicious.

My filet was cooked a perfect medium rare, barely covered in a thick and sweet Demi Glaze, and served over a thinly slice garlic Crostini. The lobster was tender and sweet with great seasoning. The rest of my plate consisted of fresh steamed veggies (again with great seasoning) and two of the best damn Hush Puppies I’ve ever had. My dinner companion had the Seafood Alfredo that he reported as delicious but the seafood was a bit overcooked.

Over the years Norwood’s has come to have the second largest wine collection in the state (I believe Burns is the first). I was thrilled to flip through all 51 pages and dream about those wines that I’m afraid I’ll never be able to try (because they cost more than my rent). But the steward was amiable, and we ordered a 2006 Meritage from Moon Mountain in Sonoma Valley. It was the perfect accompaniment to our meal. After dinner we enjoyed a light and honey scented 2005 Riesling from Mosel.

Check out their extensive wine list:

For me, no trip to New Smyrna would be complete without a giant portion of Coconut Shrimp. So while it was raining early Sunday, we headed over to JB’s Fishcamp for my all time favorite beach dish. The Jumbo Butterfly Coconut Shrimp are crispy and fried to perfection. I don’t really know what else to say about this lunch. It’s the best Coconut Shrimp. End of story. Simplicity at it’s best. Kinda like the restaurant itself. If you’ve ever been to JB’s you understand the experience. If you’ve never been, it’s worth the trip!

Looks like their site is still under construction and really doesn’t do the place justice. But it’s a good reference for directions if you’ve never been:

Lastly, Dr. Southbeach would be very proud of me for driving right by Tasty Treat on my way back to Orlando! It's on SR44, just east of I-95, and it has the best homemade peanut butter ice cream!

Monday, October 1, 2007


Not too much culinary-wise to report from last weekend.

I think I overdid it on the Magical Dining Month - both in food (I really don’t find it necessary to always have my own app and dessert) and money (if the food is cheap then you know where my money went). So, in an effort to conserve both money and calories, I stayed in on Friday and cooked up a quick seared Salmon and steamed veggies.

Saturday night I went for a (supposed-to-be) quick bite at Dexter’s in Thornton Park. I wouldn’t quite say that I’m a regular, but I do go often. It’s close to me, choc full of comfort food, and relatively cheap. I prefer this location to Winter Park; it’s less pretentious and has better artwork (although I’ve never been to the Lake Mary location).

We started with the Baked Artichoke, Asiago and Crab Dip. It was pretty good-served piping hot and very cheesy. I think that I’ve had it before, but neither time has it been very memorable. (Except for the random black bean I found in the middle of our dip. Or at least I keep telling myself it was a black bean.)

My entrée was my ultimate dream of comfort: Eggplant Napoleon. Thinly sliced breaded eggplant swimming in a sweet marinara and layered with spinach and ricotta. And topped with thinly sliced raw scallions for a bit of savory tanginess. It’s my favorite dinner at Dexter’s, and I only allow myself to order it every so often or on special occasions. This was just an every so often moment.

My dinner companion got a cheeseburger (which had to be sent back for doneness) and we shared a bottle of Marquis Shiraz from Australia. Luckily they were not overly busy (and hence the restaurant not to loud), so we lingered and decided to go with a liquid dessert and some conversation with our server.

I won’t bore you with the rest of the details from the evening, but I will say that it involved a trip to Total Wine (alright, fine, we sampled Navan and Beefeater Wet) and a viewing of an ultimate 80s flick (alright, fine, we watched Red Dawn).

Trust me, I’m the first to stand up and proclaim my inner geek.

Check back next week for details on restaurants on the East Coast…..(alright, fine, I'm going to New Symrna!)

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