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

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Medieval Food at the Lady of the Lakes Renaissance Faire in Tavares, FL

Behold the power of social media for your benefit! I visited the Lady of the Lakes Renaissance Faire in Tavares a few weeks ago. I wasn't planning on writing about the fair on a food blog, but I did post a picture on Instagram/Facebook of some chili I ate while there. I got a comment requesting a blog post, so here we go! You do follow this blog on Instagram and Facebook, don't you?
As for renaissance fairs go, Lady of the Lakes had somewhat disappointing food options. It seemed like the majority of the booths selling food were run by a local high school's culinary program. There were some ren fest staples such as turkey legs, but much of the foods available were what seemed like generic school cafeteria hamburgers and hot dogs. There was one booth that caught my eye offering soup in a bread bowl. I went with the chili. I'd assume from the container that the chili was served out of that it was made by Campbell's. It was very meaty, slightly spicy, and could have used a little more moisture to seep into the bread bowl.
Being that the chili wasn't all that soupy, I soon ditched the spoon and started eating the bread bowl/chili in a true medieval fashion. I'd rip off a piece of bread, scoop up some chili, and devour it with my hands. All this happened while watching knights fight to the death, so I'll forgive some mediocre chili prepared by high school students...

Monday, November 24, 2014

Pearl's Chinese Restaurant in Orlando, FL

I had lunch at Pearl's Chinese Restaurant in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Orlando. They are in a strip mall, located a few doors down from a Publix. I ordered their Curry Chicken lunch combo. The combo started with a bowl of wonton soup. It was pretty standard as far as wonton soup goes. It consisted of broth, dumplings, and scallions. Strips of pork which is sometimes found in wonton soup was absent.
The soup was followed by a plate of the curry chicken and a bowl of steamed rice. The curry sauce on the chicken was tasty with a little bit of heat. Bell peppers, onions, and carrots accompanied the chicken.
I enjoyed my meal at Pearl's. The food was tasty enough and I'd return!

Pearl's Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 20, 2014

#WrappedInIKEA Foods

Do most people go to IKEA for Swedish food rather than actually shopping for furniture? Perhaps that's me. I was recently invited to taste some of the foods from IKEA's JULBORD party menu as well as hear about other happenings in the Orlando store.

The JULBORD Dinner is what will most likely be of interest to readers of this blog. It is an all you can eat meal of Swedish holiday foods and happens on Friday, December 12. Julbord has two seatings, one from 2-4:30pm an the other from 6-8:30pm. Here's a sample of the menu:

The first thing I tried was the Red Beet Salad. It had nice hints of dill and onion.

Assorted Cheeses were next:

Crawfish Salad, complete with a whole crawfish on the side:

Meatballs and Lingonberries:

Gravad Lax with Mustard Sauce:

Desserts:

Glogg with Almonds and Raisins:

IKEA has also given you all a chance to win free stuff. Enter below for a chance to win a $100 IKEA gift card. You may enter from November 17 – November 30th. IKEA will pick a winner on Monday, December 1st, and contact them via Twitter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, November 16, 2014

NY Food: Jekyll & Hyde Club

Someone recommended that I try the Jekyll & Hyde Club while in New York. The restaurant is advertised as the club founded by Dr. Jekyll for explorers, philosophers, biologists, and other men and women whose exploits into science and adventure was deemed too unorthodox by their colleagues in accepted society. They filled the club with artifacts and trophies from their adventures. Basically, it sounds like a restaurant for people who's favorite holiday is Halloween, which potentially could be awesome.
Jekyll & Hyde Club is located near Times Square. Its theme is spooky stuff. Think Rainforest Cafe themed to Halloween. There were skeletons playing organs. Busts came alive and talked. Mounted heads of werewolves and elephants started moving. A Frankenstein type monster was brought to life in an hourly show with a live actor.
I ordered the Cheese Tortellini. Way overpriced for what it was, this pasta consisted of a plate of tortellini topped with tomato sauce. It wasn't meat sauce, at least I don't think it was. Still, I occasionally got a bite of ground beef in the sauce. Either way, it means the vegetarian tomato sauce got cross contaminated with beef belonging to someone else or this was one of the most disappointing meat sauces I've ever been served.
In theory, this restaurant sounded like it could have been awesome. I unfortunately came away disappointed. I wanted to like Jekyll & Hyde, but something about it just seemed off. The effects seemed too in your face and annoying when they would have worked much better if they were more atmospheric. Rather than one thing happening at a time accompanied by an audio track played throughout the restaurant, I think it would have worked much better if everything was more subtle and happening all the time. Make it so you have to notice things happening in the building rather than making it obnoxiously obvious. Jekyll & Hyde has a second location and was recommended to me, so maybe I'm being overly critical since everyone else seems to like this touristy restaurant. Perhaps I've worked in one too many haunted houses and take the details in a place like this way too seriously. Perhaps living in Orlando has spoiled me with Disney and Universal quality attractions. Eating here did remind me a bit of Disney's old Adventurers Club in Pleasure Island and how a similar concept was executed much better there. As I finished my meal at Jekyll & Hyde, I couldn't help but think about how I could make a spooky themed restaurant so much better than this one. That is, except for the bathrooms. The bathrooms were the coolest thing about this place. I'm not giving any spoilers and will let you find them yourself...


Jekyll and Hyde Club Times Square on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 15, 2014

NY Street Food: DiSO's Italian Sandwich Society, Halal Carts, and Mister Softee

In a continuation of the last few posts here on Watch Me Eat about foods consumed while in New York, this post is all about various street foods from my most recent trip to the area. My street food adventure began on Governor's Island. Here, I had lunch from a food truck called DiSo's Italian Sandwich Society. As the name implies, they served various types of Italian style sandwiches.
I had a sandwich called Jimmy Two Times. This consisted of prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, sauteed eggplant, sweet roasted peppers, and herbed ricotta spread. The sandwich was served on a bread with a very nice, chewy crust.
The generous amount of prosciutto on the sandwich was sliced very thinly, but the amount of eggplant on the sandwich wasn't nearly as generous. Even worse, I found lots of thin strips of aluminum foil which had somehow made its way into the sandwich with the eggplant. I had unfortunately bought the last sandwich of the day from DiSO's and they closed after making my sandwich, so I couldn't go back to complain. I peeled most of the foil out for this next picture. Could have been a good sandwich. Too bad it was ruined by aluminum foil...

Up next on my street food adventure was Kimo's Halal Food. This Halal cart was parked on a corner across from Bryant Park. I saw somewhere on this cart that Kimo's was serving Egyptian food. I honestly didn't notice a difference in the menu that made this cart any more Egyptian than any other similar cart in the city.
I ordered the Lamb Platter. Like most Halal carts, this consisted of a mountain of rice topped with gyro meat. Iceberg lettuce was served on the side as a salad. The entire thing was smothered in both white sauce and hot sauce. This was very tasty. I do enjoy eating large amounts of Middle Eastern food covered in delicious sauces.

After exploring Central Park, I decided to stop for food and visited another Halal cart. This cart was set up on the edge of the park at Bolivar Plaza. I didn't see a name associated with this cart.
 
Here, I ordered a falafel platter. Pretty same setup as the Lamb from Kimo's, but nowhere as good. The falafel was served in crumbs and tasted burnt. The rice was it bit hard as well. I don't know if I got the bottom of the barrel, or if this cart was just bad. Don't get food from here.


For my last bit of street food from this visit to New York, I had some Mister Softee from a truck parked outside the 190th Street Subway Station.
I had a vanilla cone dipped in chocolate. It tasted exactly how a dipped Mister Softee cone should!


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