Sunday, January 31, 2010


A few days ago I broke up with one of my favorite restaurants on this blog. Now I'm just about ready to move in with a new one. I may be in LOV with OLV.

Alright, so the name is kinda ridiculous. And it's in the new SODO shopping center right by Tar-ghay and TJ Maxx. (The fancy Target where you park on top of the building and your cart has it's own escalator. Seriously, the cart escalator is right next to the people one. So you can keep you cart in sight at all times.) But get over it. This place is really, really good.

I stopped by with a friend for a quick dinner last weekend not really knowing what to expect. The website is a little, well, cheeky, telling us readers that OLV is "more than a cafe. It's what you believe it to be". So, officially, here's what I believe it to be:

A Wine Bar that has a small selection of excellent food. Kinda like TRP is a Gastropub. I guess we could call OLV a GastroWineBar? GastroVin?

I started with the Chevre Salad: Greens with Mango, candied Pecans and an Orange Honey Vinaigrette. The Vin was fantastic-a great balance between fruity sweetness and acidity. My salad was perfectly dressed and had the addition of Beets (which I loved! But you know the rule....if it's not listed on the menu, don't add ingredients!).

We also split one of the small plates: Diver Scallops with Manchego Cheese Polenta and a Spanish Olive Tapenade. And I would officially now like to invite our server from Harmoni last week who tried to convince us that Polenta should be served cold to join me at OLV. Seriously lady, meet me. I'll buy. This Polenta was melt in your mouth delicious. Rich from the Manchego and covered in the Tapenade, I was quite happy to eat this. The Scallops were perfectly seared and combined well with the other elements of the plate.

Lastly, we split a Cheese Course. I know what you're thinking..."Whatever, Cheese." but check out this selection: Stilton with dried Apricots (my personal fav), Goat rolled in black and white sesame seeds, Drunken Goat, Manchego, Fresh Mozzerella, Boursin and a smoked Cheddar. It also had a few slices of cold Duck and Prosciutto covered in a Honey Glaze.

We arrived during happy hour and each had a glass of Chenin Blanc/Viognier blend from CA before dinner...and then split a Verdejo during dinner. Bottle prices are listed as retail so there is a $10 corkage fee for wine consumed on premise. Besides that I was quite happy with the overall value on both the food and wine.

I really hope this place does well. If they keep turning out food of this caliber I imagine they will be getting more and more busy as time goes on. But at least if you have to wait for a table you can do a quick run to Target!

Olv Café on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Really, Harmoni?

I just changed my vote on Urbanspoon for the first time. And I'm really sad to report it. I think I have to break up with a restaurant.

I've stood up for you many times, Harmoni. But tonight you officially disappointed me.

I ordered a Mojito. You gave me some freaky Mint Julep watered down hybrid. I was looking forward to the Shrimp Cakes. You gave me great flavor but more filling than shrimp. I ordered Tilefish with Grilled Cheese Polenta. You brought me perfectly seasoned and cooked fish, but ice cold Polenta. And then you tried to convince me that Polenta should always be served cold and dry.

I was trying to be a good citizen and order from the Eat Local Orlando Week menu. But after the Shrimpcakes, all I could think about was your Ribeye Sandwich. Maybe one day I'll be back for brunch, for that sandwich. But I think we should probably take some time apart for awhile. I'll give you a call when I'm not so busy.

Harmoni Market on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

903 Mills Market

I kinda feel like an ass.

I've been living in the new place for about seven months now, and I have just made it to 903 Mills Market. Which is less than a mile from my house. And I could easily walk there. And I drive by often. Whatever, at least I finally made it there. And I know that I'll make it there again.

I love the neighborhoody atmosphere of this restaurant. The outside patio is hip and inviting (to both those dining and those driving by!). Food is ordered at the counter and then brought to your table. I felt a bit of pressure trying to decide what to order with the hoards of people coming in behind us, but besides that the service was super quick.

I decided to be somewhat healthy and have the 1/2 and 1/2 combo. I went for one of my all time fav sammies-the California Club. It was tasty with Turkey, Avocado, Bacon, Lettuce and Swiss served on toasted Sourdough. (Eek, fine, I have to admit that I prefer the California Club at Pom Poms. I think they have more mushy Avocado. But this was a close second.) The other half of my combo was the Lake Eola Spinach Salad. It was the usual suspects: Spinach, Almonds, dried Cranberries and Blue Cheese. I had the Raspberry Vin for my dressing which was flavorful and balanced with a surprisingly thick consistency. The highlight was the crazy huge amount of fresh Spinach which was really a bang for your buck.

We also shared a bottle CA table wine which was good, but not very memorable. As in I forget the name. But overall the wine selection is fun and well priced. Check out their website for info on a wine club and classes.

And fine. Next time I go I'll walk!

903 Mills Market on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 25, 2010

Soba Tofu Stirfry

The Plan
Cook noodles.
Mix sauce.
Saute veggies and tofu.

The Ingredients
1 "bundle" Soba Noodles
3 Tbsp Sesame Oil
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce, low sodium
1 tsp Fish Sauce
1 tsp Mirin
1 Tbsp Sriracha
1 Tbsp Sugar
1/2 large Onion, chopped
3 cloves Garlic, chopped
1 pound Tofu (firm), cubed*
1 pint Baby Bella Mushrooms, sliced
1 head Broccoli, cut into florets

The Method
Cook Soba Noodles according to package. Reserve.

In a small bowl, combine Soy Sauce, Mirin, Fish Sauce, Sriracha and Sugar. If you like it hot, add more Sriracha. Whisk in 1 Tbsp of Sesame Oil. Reserve.

Heat remaining Sesame Oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add Onion and cook until translucent. Add Garlic and cook until fragrant. Next, add the tofu and stir well. Once the Tofu will begins to brown a bit, add Mushrooms and cook until just softened. Add the Broccoli and stir. Lastly, add about 1/2 of the liquid mixture. Stir or toss well to coat. Continue cooking until the broccoli is bright green. In a pretty way, not a freaky nuclear way.

Combine the Noodles and the remaining liquid.

To Serve
Place some Noodles on a plate. Top with veggies and tofu. That's it. Seriously, Asian food is easy. Except having to buy all the crazy ingredients.

*Don't forget to press your tofu for about half an hour. Eek, that sounded gross. Wrap the block of tofu with some paper towels and then put another couple of plates on top to provide pressure. This will squeeze some of the excess moisture out.

Stonewood Grill

I have two words for you: Chicken Potpie.

I've been going to Stonewood Grill for years down in Ft. Myers. "The" Stonewood (as my grandma calls it) is a favorite down there and is always jam packed during the season. (I'm sure the 2 for 1 house wine happy hour also helps.) Regardless, I rarely go here in Orlando because it seems that I live directly in between both Orlando locations. Longwood and Dr. Phillips. But during the freaky cold snap a few weeks ago, I only had one thing on my mind for a Saturday night dinner. That's right. Chicken Potpie.

While perusing the menu (or pretending to peruse-I already knew what I wanted), I sipped on a Pama Pear Martini. It was on the sweet side with Pear Vodka and Pama Liqueur but was topped off with some fresh Sage leaves. The Sage brought some savoriness to the drink...not in flavor but in aroma.

I started my meal with half of the Asparagus and Brie Salad. Quite yummy, the greens were fresh and the "good stuff" was abundant. And when I say "good stuff" I mean: grilled Asparagus, melt-in-your-mouth Prosciutto, super thin onion rings and chunks of Brie. The Balsamic dressing is good and tangy, but overall my salad was a bit dry.

I'm typically an adventurous eater. But....I've only had one entree at The Stonewood. I don't know what it is about "The" Potpie. Perfectly cooked Pea and Carrots. The hunks of Chicken. The flavorful sauce. The flaky Puff Pastry topping everything off. On their own, these are all good ingredients. But throw them all together, and they make a great dish.

We shared a bottle of the Liberty School Cab from Paso Robles....a bit heavy for the entrees but the with the cold weather, there's nothing better than a big Cab to warm you up.

Don't judge me for this entry. I often make fun of those who review chains on their blog. Because really, I don't care how you feel about Burger King. At the same time, I go to chain restaurants. Because sometimes they really do work. And Stonewood is a great example of this. Stonewood is comfortable, easy and classy all at the same time. And most importantly, the food is good! Or at least the Chicken Potpie is.

Stonewood Grill & Tavern on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Slow Food Orlando Week

Slow Food Orlando Week is just around the corner! It's a great time to support the Slow Food philosophy AND local business at the same time! Prix Fixe menus at participating restaurants are listed here:

The week starts off with a "Meet the Farmers" event at Primo this Saturday night. Fingers crossed that we'll get ressies and will be able to report on the new blog!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Polenta Pound Cake with Mascarpone and Rosemary

This recipe is straight outta Food and Wine Magazine. I wanted to make it at Christmas, but the family wasn't up for it. Instead I made it for a Golden Globes party this weekend. It rocks just as much as Micheal C Hall finally winning an award.

The Plan
Get Cake in oven.
Make Rosemary Syrup.
Make Mascarpone "Cream".

The Ingredients
For the Cake
1 3/4 cups Cake Flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup Polenta*
Pinch of Salt
2 sticks Butter, softened
1/2 cup Sugar
6 Eggs, room temperature
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Lemon Juice

For the Rosemary Syrup
1/2 cup Honey
3 Tbsp Water
2 Rosemary Sprigs

For the Mascarpone Cream
1 cup Marscarpone, room temperature
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
2 Tbsp Sugar
1/2 Vanilla Bean, seeds only**

The Method
For the Cake
Preheat oven to 325 F. Butter and Flour a 9x5 metal loaf pan.
In a medium bowl, combine Cake Flour and Polenta. Mix well.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, blend the Butter and Sugar for about 2 minutes. Or until nice and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Yep, it's a pain but trust me, it's worth it to do When you're done with the eggs, add Vanilla and Lemon Juice. Incorporate dry mixture a bit at a time. Beat until just combined. And then resist all temptation and stop stiring. Bake at 325 for about 55 minutes. Remove from loaf pan and let cool on a wire rack.

For the Rosemary Syrup
In a small saucepan, combine the Honey, Water and Rosemary Sprigs. On medium heat, simmer for about 2 minutes, stirring often. Let syrup cool to room temperature. Brush some on the cake when it's still warm. That's it. Keep the rest for later.

For the Mascarpone Cream
Whisk Mascarpone, Heavy Cream, Sugar and Vanilla together until smooth. Taste. I added extra Sugar and Vanilla at this point. I knew the Cake itself wouldn't be overly sweet, so I wanted the Cream to be more flavorful. Use your best judgement.

For Service
Put a slice of cake on a plate. Top with a dollap of Mascarpone Cream. Drizzle with Rosemary Syrup. Yum.

*This drives me crazy in recipes. Polenta is technically cooked coarse cornmeal. So don't go to the store and buy the Polenta in the tube. That's not what you want. Go to the baking aisle and get some cornmeal. I actually got the finer cornmeal because I was afraid the cake would be too dry with the coarse. But the crunchy crust was my favorite part of the cake, so next time I'd go with the coarse.
**I'm cheap. So sometimes it's hard for me to justify spending crazy money on fancy ingredients. I know this probably makes me a sucky chef. But I just used Vanilla Extract. If you want to be more fancy, use Vanilla Paste.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Elizabeth on 37th

I just had a realization. Reading these entries about my trip to Savannah is kinda like a modern day version of showing family members a slide show from your vacation. That being said, this is the closing entry from the trip and I saved the best for last!

A friend of mine from work had strongly advised that I go to Elizabeth on 37th while in Savannah. As in she pretty much forced me to make the ressies. And yes, it really was worth it.

The restaurant itself is located in an old house with dining areas in different rooms. For the majority of this meal we were in a room by ourselves. Which was actually pretty cool. We got loads of attention from all the employees to the point that at the end of the meal I'm not really sure who our front server was. I really cannot rave enough about the staff..and this really brings home the point that I tell me students all the time: guests are willing to pay a bit extra for higher levels of service.

We decided to skip apps and all that good stuff since we weren't overly hungry from our high tea at Gryphon Tea Room that afternoon. (And a high tea it was. If I lived in Savannah I'd be at this place everyday.) Our servers had a different idea, however. Our first three courses were an on-the-house surprise.

Dinner started with an amazing Amuse Bouche of a local Clam with Chipotle Aioli. Not too spicy, the savoriness of the Aioli was a perfect match to the sweetness of the Clam.

Next we were served a small portion of the Cream of Vidalia Onion Soup. The flavors were amazing-not too rich or overpowering. It was a bit thin for a Cream Soup, but the warmth was greatly appreciated on the cold evening!

We were also served a small dinner salad with beautiful greens and surprising hunks of fresh curly Italian Parsley. It was also covered in beautiful fresh apples...which unfortunately I'm allergic to. So I had one bite of the salad, started getting a little itchy and had to push it to the side.

For my entree I ordered one the specials: Local Black Grouper with a Cauliflower "Flan", Roasted Tomatoes, Wild Mushrooms and Truffle Oil. I was a bit hesitant to order this at first, but (one of) our servers insisted that the Truffle would not be overwhelming. He was right! I think this may be one of the only dishes I've had where the Truffle oil was used in a way to merely enhance the other ingredients...instead of being an ingredient all to itself. The flavor was so mild that I relied more on the aroma instead. The Cauliflower Flan was perfect in it's smooth velvety consistency. And the Grouper was seared to perfection. I really, really liked this dish and have to say that it was a perfect representation of how the combinations of different elements on the plate can come together perfectly.

The plan was to skip dessert after the afternoon sugar rush at high tea. But when we heard (yet another server) tell us about this dessert, there was no denying it. Goat Cheese Cheeescake with a Sour Cream Icing and Peppermint Cream. (Yeah, this thing was so good it even deserves it's own sentence.) This officially may be my favorite dessert. Ever. We've all had Goat Cheese Cheesecakes before, but the combination of the boarderline savory Cheesecake with the barely sweet Sour Cream Icing was amazing. Add in the light Peppermint Cream (think Peppermint Stick Ice Cream) and we forgot about how full we were. Think I'm exaggerating? If I rated food on this site with stars, or forks or whatever, this dish would get the whole kit and caboodle.

We had a subtle but floral Viognier with the meal that had all proceeds going to Tibetan Monks. Yes, random, but I guess that they had some wine left over from a charity function. So pretty cool. If I had more money I would have gone to town with this wine list. And then sent a check to Tibet.

I just had another realization. I'm kinda glad that Elizabeth on 37th isn't located in Orlando. Because I would want to go every weekend. It definitely is a special occasion place (my share alone of the bill was three digits) but I know that next time I'm up in the Savannah I will have to stop in.

Elizabeth On Thirty Seventh on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 11, 2010

Farro Italiano

Yes, I'm officially obsessed with Farro.

The Plan
Cook Farro.
Roast Tomatoes.
Saute Garlic and Arugula.

The Ingredients
1 Cup Farro
2 Cups Water
1 Pint Cherry Tomatoes, halved
4 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 Cups Arugula
1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese, shredded
2 Tbsp fresh Basil, Chiffonade
Salt to Taste
Pepper to Taste

The Method
Preheat oven to 350F.

Bring Farro and Water to a boil in a medium pot. Reduce to simmer, cover and cook for half an hour (or until all water is absorbed). Basically, just like you're cooking rice. You know the drill.

Put Tomatoes and 2 Tbsp Olive Oil in a bowl. Throw in some Salt and Pepper (about 1 tsp Salt and 1/2 tsp Pepper). Add more if you want. Toss all ingredients. Place on a sheet pan (aka cookie sheet) and roast for about 20 minutes or until they get all wrinkly.

Heat the remaining Olive Oil in a medium saute pan on medium high heat. When Oil is hot, throw in the Garlic. Saute until fragrant and then add the Arugula. Stir constantly and the Arugula will wilt in under a minute. Yep, that fast so don't turn your back to the stove.

Grab your fresh Basil and place each leaf on top of each other. Roll the leaves up tightly (like you did in college) and slice the leaves very thinly. This is called chifonade. It will look like confetti.

Combine the Farro, Tomatoes and Arugula and Basil. Add in the Parmesan and that's it!

Oh yeah, don't forget to taste it first. You might want to add in more Salt and Pepper.

I served this with a roasted Chicken breast that I had been marinating all day in Italian seasoning and Garlic. But use whatever protein you'd like!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Am I the only one...

Who wants to try that new Italian place downtown....just because it's called Fratelli's?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Rocks on the River

Friday night we decided to just kinda see what would happen so we started the night at Moon River Brewing Company to sample some local beers and just sit for a bit. I was impressed by their Wheat beer and found the space warm and inviting.

Not wanting to wander in the weather, we ended up heading across the street to try Rocks on the River, located on the river level of The Bohemian Hotel-a distant cousin of ours here in Orlando. I know what you're thinking...a hotel restaurant? But I had read some positive reviews on Urbanspoon and at this point it was getting really cold out.

And I have to admit that I liked this place! The decor was modern but comfortable and not pretentious in any way. Our table was amazing with a surprise! river view. And this was the first time in Savannah where I actually liked our server. Competent and polite she added a bit of fine dining feeling to the meal. (Another admission: at this point I became a full fledged tourist... because I just had to have a Georgia Peach Martini.)

We both started with soup (again!) because really, who can resist Corn and Leek Chowder. As opposed to the She Crab debacle at lunch, I ate every bite of this soup. It was chunky-but in a chock full of veggies kinda way! This soup was flavorful and tasted, well, fresh. The veggies were perfectly cooked and not mushy in any way.

For dinner I ordered the Meatloaf. Not something that I would usually jump at. I'm just not a meatloaf type of girl But the combo of a nice hot meal plus a recommendation on Urbanspoon led to making a pretty good decision. This meatloaf was pretty tasty. Made with both beef and Italian Sausage, it was probably the most unusual style of meatloaf that I have had. Not sure how often I'd get it, but if you are a fan of the sausage, you'll love it.

It was served with an earthy Mushroom Sauce (that went perfect with our Pinot Noir), Mashed Potatoes (good but not nearly as good as my stepmom's) and some freaky waxy Green Beans (I'm guessing frozen).

We skipped dessert but walked out with our leftover wine in plastic cups (makes me miss NOLA!). While it wasn't quite the traditional Savannah fare, I would still recommend this restaurant if you're ever in the neighborhood.

Stay of my top five favorite meals ever is next!

Moon River Brewing Company on Urbanspoon

Rocks on the River on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Olde Pink House

Two Words: Tourist Trap.

We headed out to Mrs. Wilkes on Friday to get our Southern-all-you-can-eat-grub on in a bit of a post new years hangover. Unfortunately, Mrs. Wilkes was closed for the holiday and for the entire weekend after. Guess I'll put that one on the shelf for my next visit.

Instead we ended up at The Olde Pink House. The atmosphere itself was charming in that historic Savannah kinda way, but the overall feeling was one of discomfort with bad acoustics where it felt like everyone in the room could hear your conversation.

Both my dining companion and I started with the She Crab Soup. I had two bites, put my spoon down and instantly regreted the $7.95 I was going to give up. Not only was the soup luke warm, it was...and this is going to sound gross...chunky. And when I say that, I'm not talking chunks of crab, but rather congealed chunks of soup. Like when you take a can of Campbells condensed something-or-other and add a can of water to it.

I also ordered the Ham and Cheese Sandwich, mostly because it was made with Pimento Cheese, dipped in egg and then pan fried. It was good, but surprisingly bland and probably better in theory.

I'd probably go back if only to get the Popovers that were served before lunch. Served with a sweet butter, they were perfectly light and delicious. Ok, honestly, if you're ever in Savannah, stop in and have one (or two like me).

I really wanted to like this place, but it reminded me of some of the restaurants out near Disney. They don't really care if every tourist is happy and are fine with putting out mediocre food. Because more tourist are literally right around the corner.

I promise there is amazing food forthcoming! A little foreshadowing: I had one of my top five favorite meals in Savannah and I'll describe it soon....

In the meantime, here's another fun photo from the cemetery...

The Olde Pink House on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Alligator Soul

I should have known. I'm usually pretty good about following my intuition (sometimes I think it's even borderline psychic abilities) but what are you supposed to do when you are standing in front of the hostess and you just kinda want to run?

Here's what happened: we walked in to Alligator Soul to find the hostess and (our future) server in an argument. As in, why would you do that in front of other people, much less guests? type of argument. But I had already had my first Vodka/Pomegranate/Blueberry wonder and it was New Years Eve so what were my options?

After being seated at the most awkward table ever (literally in the doorway between two rooms) we were presented with this:

A complementary cocktail and amuse bouche. The bubbly was perfect; the culinary 101 amuse had some serious textural challenges with the Salmon Mousse.

We shared an order of Shrimp and Grits as an appetizer (it was our first night in Savannah after all) that was flavorful but again, gritty and texturally challenged. You know when you're on a budget and buy el cheapo cheese that just doesn't melt right? This was the issue.

My entree choice was a special: local black Grouper with Stewed Tomatoes and Okra, Polenta and a Sambuca cream sauce. My fault on mis-ordering. One bite and I had a flashback to the Grouper with Amaretto sauce incident I had last year at Zenzi in Orlando. I've finally decided (and will remember in the future!) that I really just don't prefer fish with sweet cream sauces. Yelk. Plus, I'm not entirely convinced that the tomatoes were not canned. And honestly, I was probably only drawn in by the mention of Sambuca. Which is best left to dessert.

We finished our meal with Banana Beignets that were really just tempura fried bananas but also with the best parts of the night: An amazing Cabernet based Mulled Wine and a recommendation from our server for a bar to ring out the old year.

Bottom line: Alligator Soul is really trying to be fine dining and they have the prices to prove it! But it really missed the mark. If I lived in Savannah, I'd probably give it another try. But I don't, so I probably won't return.

After dinner we headed out for drinks at the aforementioned bar. I wish the Mercury Lounge would transplant itself down to Orlando! The jukebox was full of Blues and Motown and the band (whose name for the life of me I can't remember; I even tried looking it up) had the craziest harmonica player eva!

Alligator Soul on Urbanspoon

Mercury Lounge on Urbanspoon

Oh Sa-vannah!

Just got back from my first super (but cold) trip to Savannah!
Lots of food to discuss. Some great, and, well, some not so great. I figure I'll go through everything in chronological order over the next few days.

We rented an amazing townhouse in the Historic District that looked over Savannah's second oldest cemetery. There are about 160 tombstones but it's estimated that up to 14,000 people are buried in "trench" graves after the war and the Yellow Fever outbreak. I'm giving you some background because I think our townhouse was a bit haunted! (As opposed to a lot haunted.) Or maybe it was just my imagination when I heard someone running around on the top floor. When I was alone in the house on Friday. And again at 2am this morning. In the pitch darkness. When I was too afraid to leave my bed to go to the bathroom.

While you're waiting for food talk, here's a picture of a tombstone we walked by a few times. Look closely. Seems to be some typos.

Josiah Muir, died 1820 at age 11. His wife Mary died 3 years later at age 17. Their son Lewis died at age 12, 17 days after his dad.