Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Bubbles and Ice in Orlando, FL

Bubbles & Ice is a restaurant specializing in desserts in the Mills-50 District of Orlando. They are connected with a hotpot restaurant called Noodles & Rice (which I've yet to try). The setup of Bubbles & Ice is a bit weird because they appear to be unconnected to Noodles & Rice from the outside. Bubbles & Ice keeps their front door locked and you need to enter Noodles & Rice, walk through the entire restaurant, and then enter Bubbles & Ice through a connecting door in the back of both. This makes getting dessert at Bubbles & Ice a little more complicated than it needs to be for somebody who's never been before.
Bubbles & Ice serves a type of shaved ice that they call snow, boba tea, and various other desserts. I have had snow on every visit. The Snow is a type of shaved ice that can be found in certain restaurants specializing in Asian foods. Rather than being ice and flavor like an American style snow cone, these shaved ices are topped with fruit, sweetened condensed milk, and other toppings. I've had these at a couple other places and Bubbles and Ice is different as in the ice is flavored before it is shaved. The big blocks of flavored ice make the dessert much more uniform as opposed to putting flavor over the ice. My favorite flavor combination which I've had so far has been ginger ice topped with kiwi, coconut, and sweetened condensed milk. The ginger ice had a very nice spicy kick to it which was nicely balanced with the sweetness of the other toppings.
Snow topped with strawberries, rainbow sprinkles, and sweetened condensed milk.

Another flavor combination that I enjoyed was mango snow topped with fresh mango, coconut, and sweetened condensed milk.
At some point I'm going to return and try some other desserts besides Bubbles and Ice's snow. I should really try the bubble part of the name to see how it compares to other boba tea in the area. Noodles & Rice is also on my list to try, yet every time I end up at Bubbles & Ice, I've already eaten dinner and am looking for dessert. I must adjust my food planning one evening to remedy this.

Bubbles and Ice Dessert Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Tin Roof in Orlando, FL

I was invited to the media day happening at The Tin Roof which is now open at I-Drive 360. This new restaurant is located along International Drive, hidden away below the soon to open Orlando Eye ferris wheel. I'm liking the way this section of International Drive is taking shape.
The sampling started with Chicken & Waffle Nuggets. These waffles and bits of fried chicken were served in a bucket topped in a bacon-maple syrup. These were tasty with nice flavor in the breading on the chicken. Bacon in the syrup was interesting as well. I wasn't a fan of the presentation though. By the time the bottom of the chicken and waffles was reached, everything became soggy from the syrup pooling at the bottom of the bucket.
Creamy Shrimp & Grits: Sauteed shrimp, peppers, and bacon simmered in a spicy tomato sauce atop stone ground white corn grits and marscapone.
Baby Back Ribs: Covered in Tin Roof Confidential dry rub.
O-Eye Mac & Cheese: Maple smoked white cheddar & breadcrumbs.
The Da Lox sandwich sounded good to me. I didn't try the entire sandwich, but I did get to try some of The Tin Roof's Citrus cured salmon which was the main component of the sandwich. I'm a big fan of cured salmon, and this was made fresh at the restaurant. It was served on a cucumber slice with an orange and dill. It was very good.
I tried the Cowhorn Pepper Smore Pie for dessert. It consisted of a graham cracker crust, cayenne spicked dark chocolate ganache, and marshmallow brulee. The chocolate was very dense and rich. I'm not sure how much of this dessert I'd be able to handle in one serving.

I enjoyed sampling The Tin Roof's food during their media event. Due to their location, I ended up back here the very next day for lunch with a big group from a convention I was attending across the street. I ordered something not featured during the media event called the Hoecake Pile Up. This consisted of cornmeal pancakes topped with bbq brisket, green cabbage slaw, and pickles. I had never heard of a hoecake before, but apparently these are term for cornbread or corn pancakes in certain parts of the south. Breakfast pancakes topped with syrup are good, but I'd take a savory version of a pancake like this any day. The brisket was nice and tender with a good smokey flavor. Coleslaw was good, and I especially liked the pickled onions on top.
I've liked pretty much everything I tried at The Tin Roof during the media event and my experience at the restaurant afterwards. That doesn't always happen with media events at new restaurants. That's a good sign for the Tin Roof. Let's hope everything stays good!

Tin Roof · A Live Music Joint on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Coop in Winter Park, FL

The Coop is a restaurant in Winter Park specializing in Southern foods, specifically fried chicken as the name implies. The Coop is owned by the same people behind the very successful 4 Rivers Smokehouse.
I've been to The Coop a couple times now. On my first visit, I ordered the Generous Two Piece Fried Chicken Plate. This came with the chicken, three fixins (side items), and cornbread. The two pieces of chicken had a tasty breading which had a very nice peppery flavor. I've read some criticism of the The Coop's chicken saying it's bland, but it tasted good to me. My issue didn't have to do with the taste of the chicken. It was more the consistency. One of the pieces of chicken was so soggy that the breading was falling off the meat. The other piece was perfectly fine, but soggy fried chicken is not a good thing at a restaurant that claims to specialize in chicken. I liked the Fixins over the chicken. I tried the mac & cheese, southern collards, and stewed okra & tomato. The okra was the best of the three. It was really flavorful and all of the okra's potential sliminess disappeared into the stew.
I tried The Coop's Chicken Pot Pie on my second visit. I was unimpressed. The pie crust was good, but the pie fillings could have used a bit of improvement. There was plenty of chicken, but also lots and lots of corn. There was more corn in the pie than anything else. I found a few green beans as well, but they were hidden by all the corn in the pie. It tasted alright, but wasn't anything to write home about. I also had the macaroni and stewed okra for my sides once again. The macaroni was consistent with the my first visit to The Coop. Unfortunately the okra was really bland compared to my first experience.
The food I tried so far at The Coop isn't going to have me rushing back soon, but I have a feeling I'll be back eventually. Except for the soggy chicken, although not exceptional, most everything was tasty enough. They seem like they have consistency issues with the good/soggy fried chicken and flavorful/bland okra on different visits, so let's hope they work those out. There are several things left on The Coop's menu that I'm interested in trying (shrimp and grits, chicken and dumplings) so I think I'll be returning to The Coop to give these a try...


The Coop on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 12, 2015

900 Degreez Food Truck in Orlando, FL

I was driving home one night and passed The Hourglass Brewery in Longwood. Sitting in their parking lot was one of the coolest looking food trucks I've come across. They were called 900 Degreez and consisted of a shipping container with one side removed and replaced with glass windows, equipped with a pizza oven and kitchen inside. All this was on the back of a truck.
I had seen 900 Degreez posting on Twitter and Facebook, but had never come across the truck in person. The uniqueness of the truck design alone made me stop and buy a pizza.
I ordered the Hercules Pizza. Their oven was very quick, cooking the pie in about 90 seconds. The pie was topped with spinach, yellow tomatoes, feta, and a balsamic vinaigrette sauce. The balsamic was the weird part of the pizza. Vinegar was the dominant smell wafting off the pie which overpowering the familiar pizza smell. Pizza that doesn't smell like pizza is unexpected, but tasting the pizza was different though. The balsamic actually went well on the pizza and blended very nicely with the rest of the flavors. The pizza's crust was thin and crispy. There was a good proportion of cheese to other toppings. 
If my memory serves me correctly, this was the first time I've ever had pizza cooked on the back of a truck. It's definitely the first time eating a pizza from a truck as nice looking as 900 Degreez. To top it off, I liked the pizza too (except for the vinegar smell). I'd get pizza from 900 Degreez again!

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Black Sheep Pub in Ormond Beach, FL

Had dinner at a restaurant called The Black Sheep Pub in Ormond Beach. Located across the street from the ocean along A1A, this restaurant served pretty standard British foods.

I decided to try The Black Sheep's Award Winning Famous Fish & Chips. That's multiple superlatives used to describe the fish & chips, so I was expecting something amazing. The fish & chips were good. The meal came with two large pieces of deep fried fish, topped with slices of lemon, served aside a pile of fries. I'm not sure if this fish was amazing enough where I'd give it an award, but it was good enough.
Someone else at the table ordered the Black 'Sheep'herd's Pie.
The food I tried at The Black Sheep Pub was tasty enough. It wasn't the best British food I've had, nor was it the worst. I'd eat here again.



The Black Sheep Pub on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 26, 2014

Terrace BBQ at SeaWorld Orlando

I was at SeaWorld and had dinner at a restaurant called Terrace BBQ. This is located in a building once occupied by the Hospitality House where you could get free beer when Anheuser-Busch owned the park. I noticed Anheuser-Busch beers were still available in here, but you have to pay for them now. I was last at Sea World back in October and this building had an Italian buffet in it then, so the conversion to Terrace BBQ has apparently happened within the past couple months.
I tried the rib platter. This came with three good sized ribs, macaroni & cheese, and a roll. The ribs were good, covered in a slightly spicy dry rub. One of the three contained more fat that I would have liked, but they were otherwise good. The macaroni and cheese was also good. It was very cheesy and had nice bits of crumbled something over the top. Texture in macaroni is good. The roll was disappointing mushy white bread.
As far as Orlando theme park food goes, I normally rank SeaWorld last on the list. I've had some pretty bad food in the park, so I was a bit surprised when the ribs and macaroni were actually tasty. With SeaWorld's financial woes and budget cuts all over their parks, it is good to see their food hasn't suffered. Hopefully these ribs were a sign that it's getting better!

Terrace BBQ on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Smashburger in Orlando, FL (Waterford Lakes)

Restaurants specializing in fancy burgers seem to be opening all over the Central Florida area lately. One of the newest gourmet burger chains to recently open is called Smashburger. They currently have two locations in the area, one in Waterford Lakes and another along Colonial Drive in Orlando. Just before they opened to the public, I was invited to come try the Waterford Lakes Smashburger for a media preview.
Tom Ryan, the founder of Smashburger, was there to guide us through the restaurant's menu.
I tried some of Smashburger's fries and sides first. I tasted their Smashfries (fries tossed with rosemary, olive oil, and garlic), Sweet Potato Fries, Spicy Buffalo Fries, Veggie Frites, and Fried Pickles. My favorites were the Buffalo Fries and the Fried Pickles.

The Classic Smash was the first burger that was tasted. This was a burger topped with American cheese, Smash Sauce, ketchup, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onion, all on an egg bun.
The BBQ, Bacon, and Cheddar Burger was my least favorite of all the burgers. It was topped with BBQ sauce, applewood smoked bacon, cheddar, and haystack onions. It was mentioned that this burger was a big seller, but it didn't do much for me. Even with the toppings, it didn't seem to have enough flavors happening for my liking and was too meaty.
The Truffle, Mushroom, and Swiss Burger had truffle mayo, sauteed criminini mushrooms, and aged swiss on an egg bun.
The Central Florida Burger included Wicked pimina cheese, spicy brown mustard, fried green tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and mayo on an egg bun. This was the first time I've ever had fried green tomato on a burger as well as ever hearing of wicked pimina cheese. Since this was the Central Florida Burger, specifically sold in local Smashburger stores, I suppose I'm supposed to like this stuff. This burger was tasty.
The Avocado Ranch Black Bean Burger was a vegetarian option that we sampled. It consisted of fresh avocado, pepper jack, lettuce, tomato, and ranch on a multi-grain bun. I did enjoy the black bean burger patty.
Spinach, Cucumber, and Goat Cheese Chicken. The chicken sandwich had cucumbers, spinach, goat cheese, tomato, onion, and balsamic vinaigrette on a multi-grain bun. This was my favorite sandwich of the evening.
The Buffalo & Blue Cheese Crispy Chicken consisted of fried chicken in Frank's RedHot Buffalo sauce, blue cheese crumbles, lettuce, tomato, and mayo on an egg bun.
The Spicy Jalapeno Baja Burger was the last sandwich that was sampled this evening. It had fresh jalapenos, guacamole, pepper jack, lettuce, tomato, onion & chipotle mayo on a spicy chipotle bun. The chipotle bun was interesting. I personally didn't find the bread too spicy, but it had a unique flavor. For the rest of the burger, guacamole is always a plus.
Smashburger also had various flavors of hand-spun shakes available featuring Haagen-Dazs ice cream. Their Nutter Butter shake was my personal favorite out of what I sampled.

I liked what I tasted at Smashburger. For my personal burger preferences, there should be enough flavors happening on a burger so it doesn't just taste like beef and bread. Luckily, the majority of the burgers at Smashburger had enough going on to make me remember that burgers don't have to be disappointing. I'd have a burger from Smashburger again!


Smashburger on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 12, 2014

Tuk Tuk Truck in Orlando, FL

I tried TukTuk Thai Cuisine at a recent Food Truck Bazaar in Casselberry. This was my first time coming across this food truck. I'm not sure how long they've been around, but I decided to try their take on mobile Thai food.
I ordered the Shrimp Pad Thai. The noodles were cooked with egg, tofu, bean sprouts, peanuts, and cilantro. The Pad Thai had plenty of flavor, but I would have preferred slightly larger shrimp. The tiny little shrimp in the dish were somewhat sad looking.
TukTuk was okay. It was good, but not outstanding. Their prices seemed a bit more affordable for what you get compared to some of the other food trucks that frequent the bazaars. I'd try something else from TukTuk, but not before I try some other food from trucks which I haven't tasted yet.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Garden Buffet in Orlando, FL

I found myself eating dinner at Garden Buffet in Metrowest recently. This Chinese buffet is located in a Wal-Mart shopping center on Kirkman. Garden Buffet shares the shopping center with another Chinese restaurant which I've dined at in the past called China Lee.
Garden Buffet had several buffet tables. New food kept on being brought out, so it seemed like they had good turnover.
My first visit to the buffet tables resulted in dumplings, lo mein, chicken with broccoli, some sort of shrimp breaded in something, and a krab rangoon. Everything on this plate ranged from mediocre to disappointing.
I decided to try again and came back with a couple different types of sushi rolls, mixed vegetables, fried rice, spare rib, and a seaweed salad. Again, most of the food on this plate was also mediocre. The only standout was the seaweed salad. Maybe it was the novelty of not having seaweed salads all the time, but I really liked this stuff.
Since I wasn't too impressed with most of the food I tasted, I decided to give Garden Buffet's dessert table a try. I tried their egg custard, taro custard, cookies, orange slices, and some more seaweed salad. Again, the seaweed salad was the best food of the night.
Perhaps I'm holding my standards too high for a Chinese buffet next to a Wal-Mart, but I wasn't impressed with Garden Buffet. The food was mediocre and besides the seaweed salad that I liked, Garden Buffet didn't really give me a reason to return. Take out from China Lee across the parking lot would be a better choice.
Garden Buffet on Urbanspoon

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