Tuesday, August 26, 2014

World Gourmet in Altamonte Springs, FL

It was suggested that we try a relatively new Chinese buffet in Altamonte Springs called World Gourmet. It was dinner time and the parking lot didn't seem to have enough cars. That isn't a good try for a buffet, but we went in anyway. It looked like World Gourmet put lots of work converting the restaurant from its former occupant to a buffet. There were big wooden boats that doubled as buffet tables. There were nice fish tanks filled with fancy gold fish. All that work, but I got the feeling that most of the diners in here were friends/family of the owners.
On my first trip to the buffet, I tried some California rolls, beef with broccoli, fried rice, krab rangoon, spare rib, and a sesame ball. Not the best food, nor the worst. It was pretty standard Chinese buffet fare.
Plate #2 had a very monochromatic color scheme. There was an egg roll, some sort of custard, another sesame ball filled with red bean paste, then some orange slices and cookies for dessert.
Overall, this was a very middle of the road Chinese buffet. Not the best and not the worst I've visited (and I've seen a couple very scary Chinese buffets). I felt kind of bad for the owners of the restaurant because they seemed to be trying and yet the customers weren't there. I doubt they were making money on the evening I visited...

World Gourmet on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 21, 2014

El Taco Amigo in Deland, FL

I had Mexican food for lunch from a restaurant called El Taco Amigo in Deland. They are located downtown in a building shared with an auto repair garage. You order at El Taco Amigo from a window outside. There are a few tables on the porch next to the window.
They had a good sized menu consisting of a section of tacos where you got to choose the style and type of meat. There was also a section offering meals and combinations.
I tried three of their tacos. For the meats, I tried a chorizo, a pork pastor, and a polio. The three tacos were served on corn tortillas, topped with cilantro and cabbage. Slices of lime, radishes and hot sauce were served on the side. The chorizo and pastor tacos were my favorite and I liked them equally. The meats actually tasted very similar and I was unable to tell which one was which. They did have a slightly different appearance, so I know I did get two different tacos. Regardless, they were equally tasty! I'm not up on my spanish enough to know if polio was a typo on the menu rather than pollo, but the shredded chicken taco was the most boring of the three tacos. Luckily I didn't catch any polio from it.
I enjoyed my meal at El Taco Amigo. I would most definitely go back here again for more tacos!

El Taco Amigo on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 15, 2014

Shaan Indian Cuisine in Lake Mary, FL

I ate at Shaan Indian Cuisine in Lake Mary. Since it was lunch time during the week, Shaan offered a lunch buffet, similar to the majority of other Indian restaurants in the area. I'm not 100% positive, but I believe this hasn't been the first Indian restaurant in this location. If so, let's hope Shaan has better luck.
The buffet had a nice selection of items. My first trip to the buffet table included trying their butter chicken, cabbage, mutter, rice, fried potato, and naan.
Second plate included tandoori chicken, curry chicken, and some more butter chicken.
Everything on the buffet was tasty, but the butter chicken was the standout. The creamy, slightly spicy, red sauce on the chicken was delicious. I would eat lunch here again without hesitation.

Shaan Indian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 11, 2014

Havana Bistro Cafe in Orlando, FL

I've visited a Cuban restaurant on Sand Lake Road a few times now. They are located in a strip mall across from the Florida Mall and are called Havana Bistro Cafe.
Havana Bistro has a normal menu where you can order things like sandwiches, but they also offer cafeteria style foods consisting of several meats and side items. Havana Bistro seems to serve lots of coffee as well and has a nice selection of various pastries and desserts.
On my first visit to Havana Bistro, I ordered a meal where you get a meat and three sides from the cafeteria style part of the menu. I picked the ropa vieja for the meat. This finely shredded beef was very tasty and tender. I had the steamed vegetables, plantains, and congri (rice & beans) for my sides.
I tried their chicken on another visit. This consisted of shredded chicken in a flavorful yellow sauce with slices of green olives. I had corn, plantains, and congri for my sides this time. Out of the two meats, I preferred the ropa vieja.
I also decided to get a pastry on my second visit to Havana Bistro. I tried the guava and cheese.
I liked the food at Havana Bistro. The meats were tasty, although some of the sides were a bit disappointing (steamed vegetables and corn seemed like they came right from a frozen food bag). Their prices are very reasonable for the amount of food served as well. I'd return.

Havana Bistro & Café on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 8, 2014

Outback Steakhouse in Orlando, FL (International Drive)

I was invited to a menu tasting at the new Outback Steakhouse that recently opened on International Drive. This Outback is located in the I-Drive 360 complex, anchored by the currently half built Orlando Eye ferris wheel.
I attended one of their lunch tasting events. These menu tasting events were used to train Outback's staff in exchange for free food. The meal started with Signature Baked Potato Soup - Creamy potato soup topped with melted cheese, bacon, and green onions.
I had the Baby Back Ribs - Smoked, wood-fire grilled and brushed with a tangy BBQ sauce. Served with Aussie Fries.
Sirloin and Grilled Shrimp. Served with a baked potato and asparagus as sides.
I had their homemade watermelon soda made from ginger ale, watermelon, and lime for my drink.
Outback Steakhouse was fun. This new Outback Steakhouse was pretty much exactly what I was expecting. Like most chains, the food here was pretty much equivalent to what can be had at any other Outback. Still, I think Outback Steakhouse should fully embrace their Australian theme and start serving kangaroo meat. I'd totally try kangaroo if it started being served at Outback. It could be a place for people on kangatarian diets to go eat!

Outback Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Shake Shack in Winter Park, FL

I was invited to a Shake Shack Housewarming Party for the new restaurant in Winter Park. Shake Shack is a burger chain which originated out of New York and has quite the following. My only previous experience with Shake Shack was when I attempted to eat at their South Beach location. There was a line pouring out of the restaurant and half way up the block, all in pouring rain. I didn't feel like getting soaked for burgers, but it showed that Shake Shack has some loyal customers with that many people willing to wait in line in the rain. I finally had my chance to give Shake Shack a try with their first Orlando area location in Winter Park. Would it live up to the hype?
I sampled three of Shake Shack's burgers. The first was the ShackBurger. This was a cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato, and ShackSauce. Was it an amazing burger that lived up to Shake Shack's hype? It's hard to say. I'm honestly not much of a burger person so I'm not the best judge. This was my second favorite burger that I tried at Shake Shack.
Up next was the 'Shroom Burger. This was a vegetarian option which consisted of crisp-fried portobello mushroom filled with melted muenster and cheddar cheeses, topped with lettuce, tomato, and ShackSauce. This was my least favorite of the three burgers. I found the hot gooey cheese inside the mushrooms was a bit dangerous to eat as it exploded everywhere as I bit into the burger.
The third burger was the SmokeShack. This was a cheeseburger topped with all-natural applewood smoked bacon, chopped cherry pepper, and ShackSauce. Out of the three burgers, this was my favorite. The cherry pepper provided a nice, spicy kick.
The Cheese Fries were crinkle cut Yukon potatoes with a side of cheddar and American cheese sauce.
Hot Dog with fries. This was pretty standard as far as hot dogs go.
Since the restaurant was called Shake Shack, I couldn't leave without trying a shake. Here's the Vanilla Shake:
I enjoyed trying Shake Shack. Was it everything that I was told it would be? The food was good. I don't know if I would say these were the best burgers ever, but definitely better than some other fast food chains. Like I said, I'm a horrible judge of burgers. I've disliked enough burgers to mostly stop ordering them at restaurants. I suppose Shake Shack did indeed pass the burger test for me because I'd go back again. Now that they're officially open, I wonder if the Winter Park Shack Shack will get lines out of the restaurant like I encountered in Miami?

Shake Shack on Urbanspoon

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


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