Friday, July 25, 2014

Bistro Europa Express in Hunters Creek, FL

I had lunch at a restaurant in Hunter's Creek called Bistro Europa Express. This was a restaurant where you ordered at a counter, then you are given a number and the food is delivered to your table. The counter where you order was very appetizing. There were large glass cases displaying all the salads and ready made foods here. Apparently salads are a big thing here where you choose your ingredients following the Subway/Chipotle model. There was a section of the menu specializing in Greek food, and I chose to order from this. I had the Europa Combo, which consisted of gyro, chicken souvlaki, tomatoes, onions, tzaziki, pita, and two sides.
This was a humongous amount of food. The gyro meat was stacked high atop slices of pita. It had plenty of flavor on its own, but that didn't stop me from dipping it in the tzaziki. The chicken souvlaki had a few cubes of chicken skewered with onions and bell pepper. For my sides, I had a Greek salad and the macaroni & cheese. The salad consisted of romaine lettuce topped with lots of feta and Kalamata olives. Macaroni and cheese ruined the trend of Greek food, but it called my name when I saw it in the display case. Everything on this plate was very tasty. The price was good for the huge amount of food that was served. I had no complaints about my meal and would return to Bistro Europa Express if I'm looking for food again in Hunter's Creek.

Bistro Europa Express on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 21, 2014

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill in Orlando, FL

I received an email offering a meal at a new restaurant in Orlando called Firebirds Wood Fired Grill while they trained their staff. The restaurant is located on Mills in the new Fresh Market shopping center. This appears to be a good sized chain from Firebird's website, but this is their only location in Florida. I decided to take Firebirds up on their offer and recently dined at the restaurant for lunch. The meal started out with bread:
We had an appetizer of Ranch Rings. These were onion rings breaded in panko served with a garlic ranch dressing. I liked the onion ring structure that was constructed on the plate.
I ordered the Salmon Encrusted Salmon as my main course. The fish was topped with mustard aioli, served with Parmesan mashed potatoes and fried spinach. I liked the salmon. The mustard aioli was spicy which was a bit unexpected. Chains seem like they tend to avoid this level of spice, especially when unmarked on the menu. I could see others objecting to the heat, but I liked the spiciness. The fried spinach was also interesting. It was my first time trying crunchy, oil-drenched spinach. It wasn't bad, but I don't think I'd go out of my way to have fried spinach again.
My dining companion tried the Filet Mignon. It came wrapped in bacon and was served with steak fries.
For dessert, we tried the Big Daddy Chocolate Cake. It came with a bowl of vanilla ice cream.
We also tried the Creme Brulée Cheesecake. I preferred this out of the two cakes that were sampled.
I enjoyed my meal at Firebirds Wood Fired Grill. I can't really give too much of an opinion since everyone working in the restaurant was being trained, but I didn't have any complaints!

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Temple Terrace Pizza in Temple Terrace, FL

I was driving home from Tampa and decided it was time for dinner. We got off an exit and ended up driving way too far off I-4 before we found restaurants. Once we found a Winn-Dixie shopping center, it was decided that dinner would be had at Temple Terrace Pizza.
A large Hawaiian pizza was ordered. I never know what to expect from Hawaiian pizzas. Sometimes I like them, while sometimes the pineapple makes the entire pizza soggy which makes me not a fan. Temple Terrace Pizza made their Hawaiian properly. There wasn't pineapple juice all over the pizza. The ham was cooked until it was slightly crispy. The cheese/sauce/topping/crust ratio worked on this pie. Temple Terrace is too far from home for me to return to, but I'd go here again if it was closer...

Temple Terrace Pizza on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 7, 2014

Swamp House Grill in Debary, FL

Swamp House Grill is located in the Highbanks Marina in Debary. The restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating which provide scenic views of the Saint Johns River flowing past. They have a varied menu, serving seafood, steaks, salads, sandwiches, and more.
I had their crab cake sandwich on one visit to the Swamp House Grill. This consisted of two crab cakes with lettuce, tomato, and tartar sauce served on baguette style bread. The crab cakes were good and I was able to detect crab in them, unlike some other crab cakes I've had elsewhere where they seem to be all filler. Homemade potato chips were served on the side.
I had the grouper ruben on another visit. The ruben was served on marbled rye bread, filled with blackened grouper, coleslaw, swiss cheese, and thousand island dressing. This was a very tasty sandwich, although sauerkraut rather than coleslaw seems to be used on most of the rubens I've had in the past. The Swamp House was very generous with the amount of fish on the sandwich as well, which is always a good thing. Fried onion frazzles came as my side.
I enjoy Swamp House Grill. The food has been good on every one of my visits. The views of the river are nice. You get to watch alligators swim by as you eat. Certain menu items at the restaurant do seem steeply overpriced for what they are, but otherwise I have few complaints about Swamp House Grill.

Swamp House Grill on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Al Bacio in Winter Park, FL

I was recently invited to a new restaurant and bakery in Winter Park called Al Bacio. They are located at 505 N. Park Avenue, very close to the Morse Museum and within walking distance of the SunRail station. When translated to English, Bacio means "to kiss." This should evoke the classic Italian gesture of placing one's index finger and thumb to one's lips and giving a kiss. They serve Italian, American, and Latin American food prepared by world-class pastry and Italian chefs. Al Bacio is open from morning to early evening serving breakfast, lunch, baked goods, coffees and a variety of appetizers complimented by a fine selection of beer and wine.
The dessert case is very prominent inside of Al Bacio. It was filled with all sorts of delicious looking pastries including cannoli, cheesecake, fruit tarts, and cupcakes.
For the media event that I attended, a choice of red or white sangria was offered.
We were also served a delicious selection of appetizers, hors d'oeuvres, and pastries.
Skewers of fresh mozzarella, artichoke hearts, and sundried tomato along with skewers of prosciutto wrapped melon:
Beef chimichurri:
Fried mozzarella and cheese empanadas:

Sienafit was my companion on this food adventure to Al Bacio. You should be subscribed to her Youtube Channel. A few days later, she returned to the restaurant and sent me her first guest contribution to this blog:

A few days later I decided to go back and show a friend the the coffee shop. I asked if Al Bacio could make coffee drinks with designs in the foam/milk like they have pictured on their website. The waiter told me cappuccino could be made like this, so we ordered two. One of the cappuccinos was served with a nice star design on top made from foam and chocolate syrup. The other was just a plain cappuccino. My friend was a little disappointed his drink was not pretty as well. Cannolis were my favorite dessert at the media dinner. We got another to go with our cappuccinos.

That's the preview of Al Bacio. Visit their website for their location, hours, and menu:

  Al Bacio on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 27, 2014

Pitaria in Tallahasse, FL

I was in Tallahassee and had lunch at a restaurant called Pitaria. This was a Greek restaurant on the edge of Florida State University. Because of this, the majority of the patrons in here appeared to be college students.
I had a pita called the Gyro Supreme. This consisted of gyro meat topped with tomatoes, sauteed onions, mushrooms, bell pepper, tzatziki sauce, and feta cheese. While the contents of the pita were very tasty individually, I found it to be kind of salty. I'm not normally one to complain about a food being too salty. I normally enjoy salty foods, but the combination of the feta and salty gyro meat in this pita crossed my salt threshold. The Gyro Supreme left me feeling very thirsty.
Would I return here if I lived a bit closer to Tallahassee? Probably. Next time I wouldn't order a pita filled with a combination of multiple salty foods.

Pitaria on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Lu Lu's Ice Cream Shop in Winter Park, FL

Lu Lu's Ice Cream Shop is located in the parking lot of Eat More Produce in Winter Park. Lu Lu's is in a very small building. They actually appear to be in a shed. The shed is very nicely painted to look like a house. Regardless of their small size, they had a good selection of ice cream flavors.
I decided to try their blood orange sorbet on my last visit here. I was actually a bit surprised by the color of the ice cream. It lacked both the deep red of blood orange or the brighter orange of most orange sorbets. Instead, the sorbet was more of a tan color. This probably means Lu Lu's doesn't artificially color their ice cream, which is a good thing. The sorbet was very tasty, with a fresh orange taste. Citrus flavored sorbets are always refreshing to me for some reason.
I like the ice cream at Lu Lu's. I'll definitely be stopping here again sometime in the future...

Lu Lu's Ice Cream Shop on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 20, 2014

Bagel King in Debary, FL

Bagel King is a local chain with several locations throughout the Central Florida area. One of their smaller locations is in Debary at the intersection of 17-92 and Highbanks Road. I've been to this location a couple times now. On my first visit, I tried a cheddar bagel with cream cheese. I don't think I had ever tried a cheddar bagel anywhere before this. I've had other types of cheese on bagels, but not cheddar.
On another visit to this Bagel King, I had an everything bagel with cream cheese. This bagel seemed skimpy with the amount of seeds. There were seeds on both sides of the bagel which is always a plus, but there seemed to be less seeds compared to other Bagel King bagels that I've had in the past. Perhaps I just got a bad batch.
While I enjoyed my bagels at Bagel King, I didn't enjoy how unpleasant the employees have been in this location. They gave the impression that they really didn't want to be there and seemed angry that they had to slice my bagel. Regardless, Bagel King's bagels are definitely better than chain bagels. Then again, there aren't any of the big chains in Debary (Panera, Einsteins, or Dunkin Donuts) so Bagel King seems to have the bagel monopoly in this city!

Bagel King on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 16, 2014

3 Chefs Chinese Restaurant in Miami, FL

On a visit to South Florida, I had dinner at 3 Chefs Chinese Restaurant in Miami. It was a nice night, so we decided to dine outside at the tables 3 Chefs had out front.
I ordered the Szechuan Shrimp dinner combination. This meal started with a bowl of wonton soup.
An egg roll was served next:
Which was then followed by the main course. This came with several large shrimp mixed with various vegetables. The sauce used on the Szechuan shrimp had a nice kick, which is a good thing. The little pepper icon on the menu denoting a spicy dish actually meant something here. Fried rice was served on the side.
3 Chefs Chinese Restaurant served pretty standard American style Chinese food. Everything was fairly similar to what countless other Chinese restaurants serve. Regardless, the food was tasty. I enjoyed the sauce on the shrimp and it came with a nice variety of vegetables.

3 Chefs Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Buttonwood Cafe in Flamingo, FL

While visiting South Florida, I ventured deep within Everglades National Park and found myself in the former town of Flamingo. Flamingo is the furthest south that you can travel in the park by road. Flamingo was an actual town at one point which was occupied in the late 19th and early 20th century. Eventually Flamingo became a ghost town and was incorporated into the national park. The ruins of the former ghost town are apparently still present, but today Flamingo consists of a visitors center, marina, campsite, and an abundance of alligators and crocodiles.
Behind the bright pink Flamingo Visitor Center, there is a screened in area that houses a restaurant called the Buttonwood Cafe. The location provides a very nice view of Florida Bay.
The restaurant itself was essentially a food truck with table service. There was a trailer attached to the screen enclosure where all of the cooking was done. Servers took orders and delivered food. Apparently there was a more permanent restaurant here in the past which was destroyed by hurricanes and was never fully rebuilt.
I ordered the grouper sandwich. This consisted of a fried filet of fish on a bun with lettuce, tomato, onion, and tartar sauce included alongside the sandwich. I assembled all of the sandwich components together and this ended up being a tasty sandwich. The large piece of grouper was freshly breaded and fried. The breading had a very nice peppery flavor. The bun was a step above a standard hamburger roll. Coleslaw and fries were served on the side.
I enjoyed my meal at Buttonwood Cafe. It was my first experience dining in one of Florida's National Parks. It was also the furthest south I've ever eaten in peninsular Florida. I'd gladly return to the Everglades to eat here again!

Buttonwood Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Wolfgang Puck Express in Downtown Disney, Lake Buena Vista, FL

I recently braved the massive construction at Downtown Disney as it is transformed into Disney Springs and ate dinner at Wolfgang Puck Express. This is one of two Wolfgang Puck restaurants in Downtown Disney. This particular restaurant is located in the Marketplace section of Downtown Disney and is the lower priced of the two. Wolfgang Puck Express is a quick service restaurant and they seem to specialize in pizzas, pastas, and sandwiches. According to their menu, the ingredients used are organic and locally sourced.
There were three of us who ate here on this particular visit. We each ordered a different pizza and traded slices to compare. I ordered the Fennel Sausage Pizza. This consisted of crumbled sausage, pesto, roasted sweet peppers, and mozzarella. The pie was tasty, although the crust seemed to get very soggy underneath wherever the sausage was. The slices seemed to loose some of their structural integrity because of this.
Barbecued Chicken Pizza was another pie that was tried at our table. This was topped with chicken, grilled red onions, cilantro, roasted tomatoes, and barbeque sauce. I can't exactly pinpoint what it is, but variations of barbecue pizzas don't do much for me. This wasn't necessarily a bad pie, but I wouldn't order it on my own. Perhaps it the unexpected (even when it is expected) barbecue sauce rather than a more standard tomato sauce that catches me off guard.
Finally, I also tried the Four Cheese Pesto Pizza. This one was my personal favorite of the three pies. The four cheeses were mozzarella, goat cheese, parmesan, and fontina. It was topped with pesto, fresh tomatoes, and sun-dried tomatoes. Goat cheese should be put on pizza more often because it is delicious!
Overall, I enjoyed the pizza at Wolfgang Puck Express. I know there's a celebrity chef name attached to the restaurant, but this is still essentially food in a theme park's outdoor shopping mall. With that in mind, Wolfgang Puck Express sets a pretty high bar when it comes to pizza catering to the theme park demographic. The prices are relatively affordable as well. I'd return.

Wolfgang Puck Express on Urbanspoon


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