Saturday, June 28, 2008

Vacation All I Ever Wanted

I'm off to Ohio for the week to sit on the dock, play cards (and Tripoly...and Dominoes!) and sip some wine with the extended family.

Promise to return with some ultimate Midwestern comfort food recipes!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Funky Monkey Revisited

Went over to Funky Monkey last night for dinner. And here’s what I’ve decided. I’m not going to be overly critical of a restaurant that is literally two minutes from my house. Because when it really comes down to it, the restaurant is super cool and has an amazing wine list. What they lack is the details. And those details are usually what makes or breaks a restaurant for me.

Driving over, I was excited to remember that Funky Monkey now has free valet parking. But then I realized that I’d spent my cash on my ill-fated trip to Deland earlier in the day. (It’s a long story that I won’t bore you with….but I’m still trying to figure out how someone would actually make orange Hummus.) So I went for street parking and was greeted by friends and a very friendly server as I headed inside. I already knew what I was going to order-a few months ago at a wine tasting soiree (hosted by the Lake Eola Wine Co.), FM was there dishing out free samples of their Bison Burgers. And since that day I’d wanted to full serving.

And it was worth the wait. My burger was cooked and seasoned perfectly and was better than I had been expecting. But here’s where the details start to dissolve. The bison burger is served with potato chips…Ruffles potato chips. I couldn’t help but think that this burger deserved more than just potato chips from a bag! How cool is it to serve a bison burger in Orlando-something you don’t see too often. But I would love it to be served with something along the same lines. Something unique and different. Make your own potato chips! Or how about truffle fries? Just anything besides the greasy potato chips that I didn’t even like as a kid!

One of my dining partners also had the burger….served with a severely burnt top bun. As she waited and waited for a new one, she finally decided to skip part of the bun in lieu of her burger getting cold. It came out about five minutes later-not toasted and cold. (And yes, we had fun poking it just as we would the Pillsbury Dough Boy.) Another diner at the table had the Shorvedor Subzi (veggie curry) with some serious veggie cooking issues. The carrots had a bit too much of a bite but only a baby with no teeth would have enjoyed the over cooked cauliflower. However, for the record, the seasoning was quite spicy and delicious. The last entrée at our table was the Sea Monkey Roll-a baked tuna roll with cream cheese and crab. I suppose it was good because she didn’t talk much and didn’t offer any to the table!

Again, mixed feelings about the FM. On the bright side, we had a great time; enjoying the wine, music and company. On the not so bright side, sometimes I think people need to stop worrying too much about food costs and try to find a happy medium. As I sit here writing this, I know that I’ll be back because between the Edamame and Bison Burger I had one hell of a meal. Although now all I can think about for dinner is truffle fries!

Check out their website for info on their summer prix fixe menu:

Blueberries! Again!!

Yep, it’s that time of year again. Blueberries are abound, and, more importantly, on sale.
Here’s a quick and easy dessert sauce I’ve done recently for both myself and dinner parties:

Blueberry Dessert Sauce

1 Quart Blueberries, washed and checked for stems
1/4 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Pomegranate Blueberry Juice (such as POM brand)
1 Cup Acai Blueberry Juice (such as Bom Dia brand)

Combine all ingredients into a stainless steel saucepot. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce to a simmer and continue to cook, stirring often, until reduced by about ½. (Or until desired consistency.) Remember this sauce will continue to thicken as it cools.

I’ve served this over ice cream and cheesecake. The last time I did this recipe I couldn’t find the POM blueberry pomegranate and subbed the Acai blueberry juice. It’s very delicious and not quite as bitter. Either way, don’t feel to bad about the calories with all those antioxidants!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Ever go to one of those restaurants where it seems like the food gets better every time you eat there? That’s exactly how I feel about Luma in Winter Park.

So, yes, another year has come and gone and left the beginnings of a path around my eyes. I rang in my 32nd year with a fantastic celebratory weekend. My first choice for the family birthday dinner was Ravenous Pig but we ran in to a bit of a hiccup. Bob had called the restaurant and left a message inquiring about reserving a large table, and when that call was not returned he called again. And here’s where it gets interesting-the hostess reported that they never get their messages because they just delete all of them. Huh. I guess it’s one thing if that is common practice, and quite another to actually tell people that you do it. We ended up at my close second choice Luma….and you know that phrase “Everything happens for a reason”? Here’s where it comes into play because holy cow did I have a great meal!

We started off with two appetizers: the Pizza Margarita and the Fritto Misto. The pizza is a consummate standby in the family and really does well as an appetizer. In this case the crust is thin, the tomatoes fresh and the overall product not greasy. (Quick note, this was before the whole tomato Salmonella drama, and as far as I’ve heard, everyone is feeling well.) I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again here-I think the Fritto Misto is the best Calamari I’ve had. Served also with lightly fried white fish, shrimp, jalapenos and okra (my fav) it is really perfectly flavored and balanced.

For my entrée I had the Maine Diver Scallops served with Anson Mills Grits, a Pole Bean Salad and Tasso Ham Broth. The first time I went to Luma, I had an entrée that included the Anson Mills grits. And really, they haven’t left my mind ever since. The oversized grits are made from “organic heirloom grains” and are thick and creamy at the same time. A quick glance at the Anson Mills website describes an interesting story behind this South Carolina based company. Ten years ago the owner quit his job and set out to recreate what is described as one of America’s first cuisine styles-the Carolina Rice Kitchen. And he has been successful by replanting and harvesting the white Carolina mill corn that was used even prior to the Civil War.

The Tasso broth and buttery seared Scallops were balanced with barely a hint of sweetness from the pole bean salad. And yes, I cleaned my plate.

Other entrees from the table included the Pork Chop with Pearl Pasta and the American Wagyu Flank Steak. There was plenty of conversation regarding how this Japanese cattle can be described as American. But, turns out that 4 were imported to the US in 1976 and then another 40 in the early 90s. Fast forward to 2008 and American Wagyu is being served in Winter Park. It was my first time trying the beef and it was seasoned well and quite tender for flank.

Besides the modern décor and the grits, there is one more thing that really stands out for me at Luma: the wine list. The list is organized in different categories by price and can be purchase by the glass or bottle. I threw caution to the wind and tried the Txomin Etxamin Txakolina; a white wine from the Basque region of Spain. (And yes, that is spelled correctly.) After a good 45 minutes of research, here’s what I’ve learned: The wine is from the Txomin Etaxamin winery in the Getariako Txakolina region and is comprised of the Hondarrabi Zuri grape. (Really, I’m not kidding.) It was light, crisp and citrusy and could best be described as the love child of Tang and orange Crystal Light. It all sounds odd but was really refreshing in the Florida heat.

We ended the evening back at my place for the annual Publix birthday cake (hello buttercream icing!) and some cheap Sparkling Wine (hello Saturday morning headache!).

Check back in a few days for the continuation of my weekend with a trip to my favorite Sushi restaurant and a Orlando’s new Irish pub…..