Thursday, November 29, 2007


Woo Hoo!

Ventured out this rainy Thursday evening to Ceviche, the new transplanted from Tampa/St. Petersburg authentic Spanish tapas addition to Orlando. Located on the precarious in-the-midst of remodeling Church Street in downtown, Ceviche is in the historic Rosie O’Grady’s prime location. Three words to describe this restaurant: I Loved It!

I was a bit hesitant to try this new place that I have read about from the foodies on For a middle of the week meal, I was thinking of something a little more on the light side, but curiosity got the best of me, so my dining companion and I set out on the short trek. I haven’t been to this location for a while, maybe even a year, and while I love the whole revitalization of downtown thing, the parking was definitely a pain in the ass. But it was worth it. I’d go back to Ceviche for the ambiance and décor alone. I felt transformed while taking in the high ceilings, mosaic tables and fine details. Not to mention the highlight of the atmosphere: the tapas bar complete with legs of ham and wreaths of garlic.

Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself because we’re not even at our table yet. I first took in the wine list that, in all honesty, is a fantastic compilation of Spanish and Portuguese wines. We started off with a bottle of Monastrell (2006 Bodegas Hijos De Juan Gil “Wrongo Dongo”). Mark my words, with it’s creamy chocolate undertones, the Monastrell varietal is on the verge of an upward popular trend. (And, as my dinner companion pointed out, how can you go “Wrongo with the Dongo?”)

Being a tapas restaurant, we ordered two dishes each and dove right into our first two choices: Espinacas and Queso de Cabra. The Espinacas (which we both agreed was our first choice of dishes) was out of this world! Sautéed spinach and garlic mixed with honey, strips of roasted red peppers and figs. Enough said, right? I was surprised by the complexity of such a simple dish and the figs really put me over the edge. This is a must have!

The Queso de Cabra was a simple baked Goat cheese and tomato dish lightly seasoned with dried herbs. Don’t get me wrong; it was good, but probably nothing that I would order again. I love Goat cheese, but would’ve liked to have something more to enjoy it with besides the unimaginative bread that was served.

My veggie dinner companion then enjoyed the Portobello Relleno. I don’t sit well with Portobellos, but I couldn’t resist a taste when this came out to the table. The large mushroom was stuffed with wilted spinach and Manchego cheese. It was delicious! But what the menu failed to mention was the fantastic Béchamel sauce that was served on the side. It was quite tasty and unique to have on an all veg dish.

I then thoroughly enjoyed the Filetito (just like it sounds, a petit Filet). Served with authentic Cabrales bleu cheese, I was over the top with this dish. The sautéed onion, bell peppers and baguette slices completed the Filetito that was tasty and very satisfying.

Lastly we shared the Pudin de Pan. (You guys know how I love Bread Pudding!) With raisins, vanilla ice cream and a creamy Brandy sauce, the chunk of hot bread pudding was really in all of it’s glory. I’d order this again in a heartbeat (but of course sharing; the serving size was huge!). At this point we also had some more wine: a 2001 Tempranillo/Mazuelo blend (Faustino V. Reserva) that captivated me with its leathery and licorice undertones.

The staff was not only friendly but also sincere. Our server exuberated friendly enthusiasm and the manager was knowledgeable and passionate about his wine list (he even gave me a copy for my students!) On the way out we peeked into the bar where they featured live music. Again the atmosphere entranced me: a tall cathedral ceiling with beautiful and detailed lighting. I can definitely see myself enjoying a drink there in the future.

All things said, I really hope this place catches on. With the Dessert Lady opening a new location across the street and (hopefully soon) the completion of construction, I can see Ceviche having a promising future that they deserve in their new Orlando location!

Ceviche Tapas Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Post Thanksgiving

Hello and I hope that everyone had a nice holiday. Mine was fantastic having my sister and grandmother in town. And as in the Kate's Kitchen family tradition, we overindulged in all things food, wine and shopping.

I won't bore you with the details, so here are a couple of recipes from the week:

Cranberry Port Compote

½ cup Port, Tawny
1 tsp Orange zest
½ cup Orange Juice
1 12 oz bag Cranberries
¾ cup Sugar

In a medium non-reactive heavy saucepan combine all ingredients.

Bring to a simmer over medium low heat. Simmer until desired jam like consistency, approximately 25 minutes.

Serve warm or cold.

Will keep in refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Makes approximately 2 cups.

I've made this compote for the past few years, this year specifically for a client. The recipe is from the tried and true Get Saucy-the world's greatest sauce compilation.

Ciabatta Stuffing with Chestnuts and Pancetta

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
8 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 large onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
3 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 (7.4-ounce) jars roasted peeled whole chestnuts, coarsely broken
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 pound day-old ciabatta bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup (or more) canned low-salt chicken broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, beaten to blend

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter a 15 by 10 by 2-inch glass baking dish. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and sauté until crisp and golden, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a large bowl.

Melt the remaining butter in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery, rosemary, and garlic. Sauté until the onions are very tender, about 12 minutes. Gently stir in the chestnuts and parsley. Transfer the onion mixture to the large bowl with the pancetta. Add the bread and Parmesan and toss to coat. Add enough broth to the stuffing mixture to moisten. Season the stuffing, to taste, with salt and pepper. Mix in the eggs.

Transfer the stuffing to the prepared dish. Cover with buttered foil, buttered side down, and bake until the stuffing is heated through, about 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until the top is crisp and golden, about 15 minutes longer.

My stepmom made this stuffing for the first time this year-it's from Giada De Laurentiis and was perfectly delicious.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Feast of Fonzo

So, I guess when you have a couple of friends hollering at you about your lack of blogging, it’s time to post! Again, I’ve been a slacker. I know, I’m almost as bad as a case of food poisoning from McCormack and Schmidts. But more on that later.

Last Thursday night I went to the Feast of Fonzo over at Nonna’s, Chef Kevin’s new Italian place in College Park. We weren’t really sure what to expect-I had read about the event online and was thrilled that they still had some openings. The dinner was served family style and we were seated in tables of 10 (unfortunately we were at the annoying people table…why couldn’t we be seated with Wendy Chioji? And why do I see her everywhere? Is she following me?)

We started the evening with a nice cocktail: Prosecco, Moscato d’Asti (aka liquid crack) and OJ. Great drink in theory, but I lost the taste of the liquid crack amongst the OJ. The first course was your typical Antipasto plate: cold meats, cheese, marinated olives and artichokes, and grilled squash with roasted red peppers. Not that I’m complaining, I could make this my dinner any night of the week! The standouts were a fantastic salami and a lightly marinated artichoke. Wine for this course was a Chianti from Umbria that was smooth and blended with the Malvasia grape.

The fish course really stands out in my mind for various reasons. First off, I had probably the best Calamari I’ve ever had! Served fresh and with (surprise!) green peas, it was tender and flavorful and I’d go back just for this. The other standout for this course was the wine-a 2005 Benevolio Pinot Grigio from Friuli. It’s rare that I find a Pinot Grigio that I enjoy-mostly they taste like cheap metallic water to me. But this wine had a surprising softness and complexity not often seen. Also part of the fish course: Mussels in a white wine sauce and Clams with a tomato sauce.

Next up: the pasta course! (Here’s when I start to get really really full.) First was one my all time favs: the Eggplant Parmesan. It was good, but not a good as mine (their was a bit too soft). Also in this course was a big plate of Linguini topped with tomato sauce, Meatballs, spicy Italian Sausage (way too spicy for my taste as well as those around me) and hunks of Veal shank. The Meatballs were the size of a small child and oh so yummy! We also had a big slab of one of the best cheese Lasagnas that I’ve ever had. I think I was moaning something through my mouth full of mozzarella, but at that point no one noticed because they were all enthralled also. The wine for this course was a Barbera D’Alba from Piedmont called Tre Donne (translating to 3 Women-sisters who inherited the winery from their father).

At this point of the evening I could barely take a deep breath not to mention a bite of food. But I forced myself to take one bite of all the items of the meat course: Chicken Cacciatore (not good) and roasted Lamb with a Parmesan Fennel. This was another part of the evening in which I was delightfully surprised-the sweet and savory combination of the Fennel made for an interesting and unforgettable dish. For this course they brought out the big guns-we had a super Tuscan called Arcena Prima Voce from Toscany.

We capped off the evening with a grand dessert buffet and a choice of either Limoncello or Sambuca (hooray for Del a Note!) The desserts included a Bread Pudding, Ricotta Cheesecake, Cannoli and fresh Figs. Again there was one stand out-an out of this world Bread Pudding. Cheers to all who worked hard on this evening-it was a great success and I’d go back and do it all over again anytime! But hopefully next time at a better table!

Friday night I went to the Festival of Trees (yet another year I didn’t win anything!) and out to Ruth’s Chris for dinner with my step mom. We had a fantastic time and as usual the food and service were impeccable. We each had Petite Filets with Broccoli and the Sweet Potato Casserole. I had never had the Sweet Potatoes there and was pleasantly surprised at the light Vanilla scented dish. It was delicious. We also had a bottle of the 2005 Caymus Cabernet. It was really fantastic but reminded me of all the good stuff that I miss when I’m on a budget.

Next up in the line of events is what I am now referring to as the “Great McCormack and Schmidts Debacle of 2007”. First off, never go to the Millenia Mall or the surrounding area on a Saturday evening (even if you have ressies). The traffic is bad. The parking is bad. And apparently the fish is bad. (I know, who ever thought Boursin stuffed Grouper was going to be good for your intestines anyway?) Good points of the evening: great company, surprisingly good Calamari, a $75 gift certificate, and free Martinis at the Blue Martini.

All in all not a bad weekend.

PS Just for the record, Wendy Chioji has never had anything for me except a bright smile! One day I'll work up the nerve to say hello!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Cloudless Skies

Had a fantastic time this past weekend. Although I think it’s hard to be miserable when the weather is like this.

Met up with a friend late Friday night after work and decided to try the new wine bar in Thornton Park called Aroma. We arrived a bit after 11pm to a moderate crowd and some very drunk people. I’d been waiting to try this place for a few weeks; apparently they have an Amarone that is out of this world. But I was in dire need of a snack, and their kitchen was closed, so we decided to pop on over to Midnight Blue for a quick bite.

I’ve been to Midnight Blue a handful of times with pretty much average results each visit. It’s great to sit outside and the food is decent, but the fact that their kitchen is open till midnight is really a great draw (although we were the only ones dining). My companion got an order of Crispy Shitake Mushroom Spring Rolls, I got the Petit Smoked Gouda Grilled Cheese with Cream of Tomato Soup, and we decided to share an order of the Tempura Hericot Vert with Truffle Aioli (translation=fried green beans).

There really is nothing like the ultimate comfort food of a grilled cheese sandwich. It was of course delicious with the smoky gouda and crispy bread. It even had the crust cut off. I was surprised at the soup however. I figured I’d get the end of the night bottom of the barrel serving, but it was fantastic. Smooth and creamy with not to much acidity, it really hit the spot.

I’d had the green beans before and was amazed with the lightly fried and truffle flavorings. This time was no exception with the perfectly al dente veggies. But the aioli was a bit off, and, quite honestly, we both got stomachaches about an hour later. (Even the thought of it now, days later, makes me curse the fried/truffle combo.)

I also had a glass of Airlie 7, a white Meritage from Willamette Valley. As much as I love Conundrum, this could be my new official favorite white. Check out the grapes:

My bro came over on Saturday night to help me hang some new pictures in my kitchen so I decided to pay him back with a home cooked meal. We had seared Sea Bass (I know, not exactly politically correct, but so yummy), Butternut Squash Risotto and steamed Asparagus. Um, it’s hard to review this meal because I made it, but it was pretty damn good.

Capped off the weekend with a quick brunch at HUE (I even brought the new camera but realized about half way through the meal I forgot to take a picture). It was good; I had one of the scrambles and a couple of mimosas.

Here's to all of our friends up north who, during the summmer months, ask us how we can possible stand the weather in Florida!