Saturday, April 22, 2017

Z-Best Ethiopian Food in Orlando, FL

I ventured down to Lake Eola Park on Earth Day. Earth Day in the park was interesting because the March for Science was happening at the same time as the Central Florida Earth Day celebrations. The two events contrasted a bit with one promoting science alongside another that was promoting a whole lot of pseudoscience. Besides the tents telling me the the horrors of chemtrails, the Earth Day celebrations also had some food vendors which aren't normally in the park. I tried Z-Best Ethiopian Food.
I had their three item combo. I picked a lentil-filled sambusa, collards, and chickpeas. The sambusa was good, similar to a samosa in an Indian restaurant but with a flakier crust. The lentil filling had a nice bit of spice to it. Chickpeas were also good, cooked in a flavorful tomato based sauce. The collards were just okay, with not much standout flavor.
Z-Best was my first time eating Ethiopian food in Orlando. I know there are a couple other Ethiopian restaurants in town that I need to try, but so far I only have one data point. I guess that means Z-Best lives up to their name for now in Orlando.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Sassagoula Floatworks & Food Factory in Disney's Port Orleans

I ventured over to Disney's Port Orleans hotel for dinner on a recent evening. After wandering around the property looking at the different food options, I ended up at Sassagoula Floatworks & Food Factory in the French Quarter section of the hotel. The restaurant was set up food court style, with several different counters serving various menu options.
I tried the Jambalaya. It was served in a large bowl topped with a square of cornbread. As far as taste goes, the jambalaya was good, but it also sort of lacked something. It consisted of chicken, sausage, and rice, and that was about it. I'm used to seeing a little more in jambalaya too. Usually there's vegetables in there as well. Celery, green peppers, and onions seem pretty standard in the dish, but there was no trace of them here.
Someone else ordered the Shrimp and Grits. Definitely the better option. The large portion consisted of a large serving of grits topped with a freshly made serving of shrimp, various vegetables, and sauce. Sundried tomatoes aren't normally in here, but they were added upon request. It was really tasty and definitely outshined the relatively boring jambalaya.
Beignets were also ordered for dessert. Doughnuts topped with powdered sugar are always good, and these were better than other theme park beignets I've come across which are basically square funnel cakes. These were light and fluffy and had the proper beignet consistency.
Although my jambalaya was a little subpar, everything else I tried at Sassagoula Floatworks was good. I'd go back!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Suki Hanna in Hunters Creek, FL

I went to Suki Hanna in Hunters Creek upon a friend's recommendation for lunch. I ordered their Sushi Bar Lunch Special, which included soup, salad, and two rolls. The salad was the standard Japanese restaurant salad, consisting of mostly iceberg lettuce in ginger dressing. Miso soup is also always good.
As for the rest of the lunch, I ordered the Tuna Avocado Roll and the Spicy Shrimp Roll. Pretty much what I would expect as well for sushi rolls. The spicy shrimp roll could have had a little more spice.
Suki Hanna was exactly what I expected when going to a Japanese restaurant for lunch. They offered affordable lunch specials which were Japanese restaurant standards. A very similar meal could be found at countless other Japanese restaurants all over Florida, but being that Suki Hanna did the lunch well enough was a good thing.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Market on South in Orlando, FL

I've ended up at Market on South in Orlando on a couple occasions recently. Market on South was described to me in a way that made it sound similar to East End Market or Plant Street Market, as in one building that houses several separate food centered businesses. Technically, that's what Market on South is, but the separate entities are all sold from one single counter inside the building. Until my first visit there, I also didn't realize that everything sold at Market on South is vegan.
Dixie Dharma is the name of the food vendor inside of Market on South that serves sandwiches. I tried their Carolina BBQ Pulled Jackfruit Sandwich. The menu described it being topped with crispy fried onions, garlic pickle, arugula, preserved lemon & coca-cola reduction, all on Texas toast. This was my first time ever trying jackfruit on a sandwich and it was pretty tasty.
I also traded a sandwich half with the person I ate here with and tried the Florida Fried Green Tomato Sandwich. This had deep fried green tomatoes, with smoked eggplant remoulade, garlicky kale & chow-chow on Texas toast. Of the two sandwiches I tried, I preferred this one. Both were good, but this one had a little more going for it. I did like that Dixie Dharma didn't pretend that they we serving meat when they weren't like I've seen done in far too many vegan/vegetarian restaurants. My main complaint with both of the sandwiches was the Texas toast. The white bread didn't do it for me...
Valhalla Bakery is the bakery portion of Market on South. It seems like most of their baked goods are doughnuts, but when I saw they were advertising King Cakes for Fat Tuesday on their Instagram, I stopped in a picked a few up. My most recent experience with vegan baked goods before this from a bakery which will not be named was like eating corrugated cardboard that was supposed to be a brownie, so my expectations weren't high. These King Cakes luckily exceeded my expectations. I had a Publix King Cake the day before, and these were way better. I'm not sure how Valhalla Bakery does it with no eggs or dairy, but the cakes were moist, held together well, and didn't fit the stereotype of vegan baked goods at all. Unfortunately, babies were not supplied with the cakes.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Thai Thani in Celebration, FL

I had dinner at Thai Thani in Celebration. Located in a space which was once one of the last few holdouts of Gooding's Supermarkets, Thai Thani has no resemblance to once being a food store. The restaurant was about half full when I ate there, yet all the servers were acting flustered and apologizing about how overwhelmed they were. It was strange to see all the servers act like this, when in all actuality, the service was fine besides all the apologizing.
I had the Chicken Red Curry. This was a coconut milk based curry with string beans, eggplant, basil, bell peppers, peas, and bamboo shoots. Steamed rice was served on the side. It was pretty standard for a Thai restaurant curry dish, which is good. Only complaint was that I ordered the dish with medium spice and it had no heat at all. Still tasty though. I'd eat here again.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Fish on Fire in Orlando, FL

I had dinner at a restaurant near Orlando International Airport called Fish on Fire. I went here with a a few people from a convention I was attending at a hotel a few doors down. If I was alone, I probably would have walked out because the whole place had the unpleasant stench of cigarette smoke. Nobody was smoking in the restaurant because that's illegal, but the large open doors leading to the patio brought the smell straight into the dining room.

I ordered the Cobia for my meal. The fillet of fish was cooked well, with a nice bit of flavored seasoning. I had a side of collards which were good. My side of grits weren't so good. They were dry and crunchy.

Our server seemed angry throughout the meal, but his service was okay until we were ready for the check. It took a good 45 minutes after we were done eating before we saw the bill. This was while asking our server repeatedly, then asking other employees who referred us back to our server. The fish was good, but Fish on Fire had too much going against them. I don't think I'd return.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

MidiCi in Kissimmee, FL

I was invited to try a new restaurant in Kissimmee called MidiCi. Located in a shopping center near the intersection of Osceola Parkway and 441, MidiCi is a quick service style restaurant. Neapolitan pizza seems to be the star here, with the entire kitchen centered around a wood-fired oven. You can either choose to order of the menu, or customize your pizzas by selecting what you want on your pizzas. I wanted to leave the flavor combinations to the experts, so everything I tried came straight off the menu. 

We started out our visit with the House Cheese Board. This consisted of a selection of house cheeses: black truffle cheese (sottocenere al tartufo), smoked mozzarella, goat cheese, gorgonzola, and parmigiano-reggiano. The cheeses were accompanied with fresh pears, king walnuts, organic honey, and wood fire-toasted ciabatta bread
House Meat Board: This was similar to the cheese board, featuring a selection of cured meats. There was black truffle salami (tartufo), prosciutto di San Daniele, spicy Italian salami (calabrese), Neapolitan salami, and rosemary ham (cotto). The meats were served with gourmet pickles, two mustards, and wood fire-toasted ciabatta bread
Burrata with Melon & Prosciutto di San Daniele: Fresh soft burrata cheese, fresh melon, prosciutto di San Daniele (imported from Italy and aged 24 months).
The Devil's Pizza: Crushed Italian peeled tomatoes (sauce), fresh whole mozzarella, housemade all natural spicy sausage, spicy Italian salami (calabrese), all natural Fresno chilis, all natural Italian chilis, parmigiano-reggiano, organic non-gmo extra virgin olive oil, and fresh organic sweet basil. The pizza had a fair amount of spice for what is essentially a fast food restaurant.
Pizza Bianca e Prosciutto: Fresh whole mozzarella, oregano, fresh garlic, parmigiano-reggiano, organic non-gmo extra virgin olive oil, topped with prosciutto di San Daniele and baby arugula after bake. Of the two pizzas I sampled, this was my favorite.
Nutella Calzone with Fresh Berries: Our signature Neapolitan dough, light, thin, soft and chewy, baked fresh with Nutella, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries. Topped with a hint of balsamic reduction and shaved coconut. I've had similar desserts at other fast food Italian chains. This was better.
The Drowning Gelato (Affogato): Italian vanilla gelato by Italian Master Gelatiers Leo Leo Gelato, drowning in espresso. I'm not a big coffee person so the espresso flavor was a bit strong for my liking.

Everything I tried at MidiCi was delicious. The pizzas were done really nicely. All the appetizers and desserts were quality. I look forward to returning to MidiCi in the future!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Chicken Waffle Grill Food Truck in Orlando, FL

I had lunch from a food truck which was new to me called Chicken Waffle Grill. They were parked outside a hotel near the airport where I was attending a convention. My first time trying chicken and waffles was also from an Orlando food truck called Melissa's Chicken and Waffles, which I don't think is around anymore. I'm glad there's another chicken & waffle food truck around to fill the void.
I had the Mac & Cheese Waffle. The waffle was topped with fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, lettuce, potato chips, and a slightly spicy sauce. Fries and syrup were served on the side. As unhealthy as this might sound, overall it was actually really tasty and all the flavors worked together well.
My big complaint was with the plastic silverware that the truck supplied. It was really flimsy and I went through three plastic forks snapping in half as I was trying to eat my lunch. Otherwise, I enjoyed my waffle!

Friday, January 13, 2017

New Mexico Food (La Posta de Mesilla, Church Street Cafe, Frontier Restaurant, Standard Diner, Los Magueyes, and El Toro Bravo)

After spending some time in El Paso for a convention, I rented a car and went on a whirlwind tour of New Mexico. Here's some of the food from that whirlwind.

La Posta de Mesilla:

The town of Mesilla was very pretty with lots of adobe architecture. While there, I had lunch at a sprawling restaurant called La Posta de Mesilla. They've been around since 1939 so they must be doing something right. 
I had a combination plate which included a tamale, taco, enchilada, chili con carne, rice, and beans. It was a huge amount of food for a reasonable price.



Church Street Cafe in Albuquerque:

Moving on to Albuquerque, I had breakfast at Church Street Cafe in Albuquerque Old Town. My decision on where to eat was made easy because this was the only restaurant I found open for breakfast in Old Town.
Chips and salsa at 10:30 am.
I had Huevos Rancheros topped with half green chili and half red chili sauce. Homefries, beans, and tortillas were served alongside the eggs. New Mexico's green chili is delicious.


Frontier Restaurant in Albuquerque:

This restaurant was recommended to me by somebody who grew up in Albuquerque. Located right across the street from the University of New Mexico, Frontier had somewhat of the same feel of the indoor portion of Atlanta's Varsity with very different food.
I had the Mexican Combo, which came with an enchilada, taco, rice, beans and flour tortilla. I also ordered a cup of green chili stew, because green chili must be eaten everywhere in New Mexico. The combo was good, but not the best Mexican food I've ever had. It didn't seem nearly as authentic as my meal in Mesilla. The green chili stew was delicious though.



Standard Diner in Albuquerque, NM:

A second breakfast the next morning in Albuquerque. This time at a restaurant called the Standard Diner.

I had the Rail Runner. This was named after the commuter rail connecting various cities in New Mexico (with a way cooler paint job and better sound effects than Orlando's SunRail). It consisted of scrambled eggs and chorizo over a cheddar biscuit, topped with New Mexico green chile, pimiento queso, and white cheddar. Black beans and hash browns were served on the side. This was pretty delicious!



Los Magueyes in Santa Fe:

Moving on to Santa Fe, I had dinner at a restaurant in downtown called Los Magueyes. They were located on a side street closed to traffic called Burro Alley and had seating in the street.
Live music was happening.
I had the Nuevo Guadalajara Special. It came with flautas filled with chicken served over a piece of steak, a tamale, rice, beans, and garnishes. For some reason I was expecting a chicken flauta and a steak flauta rather than chicken flautas served over steak. It was unexpected and resulted in a lot more food. Everything was good (although the steak was a little tough).




El Toro Bravo in Roswell:

Roswell and aliens are such a big part of American pop culture that I couldn't not stop at the UFO museum. I had lunch on the next block at El Toro Bravo. How could I not want to eat at a restaurant with mariachi aliens painted all over the outside of the building?
They had a lunch buffet going on. How about we not talk about the food on the buffet and focus on the cute tire tread alien above? After the Mexican food deliciousness that I had eaten all week, this was pretty disappointing. I guess the extraterrestrials haven't quite figured out how to have good Mexican food on a buffet yet...

Monday, January 9, 2017

El Paso, TX Food (L&J Cafe, Luigi's Home Style Pizza, Nolita Corner Bistro, Convention Center Tacos, and Chico's Tacos)

Let's start out 2017 with some posts about the foods from some of my travels in 2016 which were never published. I spent just about a week in El Paso, TX. This was my second trip to Texas in 2016, but this time I was in a totally different part of the state. I guess because Texas is huge, I got a totally different vibe of of the state on this trip compared to last. Both good, just different. The food was different as well. Much more of a Mexican influence, although tacos almost seemed less prevalent. Read on...

L&J Cafe:

I was expecting good Mexican food in El Paso. L&J Cafe was my first experience with Mexican food in the city. They were located in a historic building with a view of a cemetery. L&J seemed to be an happening place with a wait when I arrived, plus people all around town were recommending it as a good Mexican restaurant..
I tried the Machaca Plate. This was new to me and consisted of shredded beef mixed with scrambled egg, tomatoes, onions, and jalapenos. Refried beans, rice, and tortillas were served on the side. Pretty tasty. Trying something new at a Mexican restaurant was a nice break from the standard enchiladas, tacos, and tortillas that pretty much everyone serves.



Luigis Home Style Pizza:
I found out it's hard to find restaurants that are open for business on weekends in downtown El Paso. Luigis was one of the few places serving food when I went looking on a Saturday afternoon. They had a pizza buffet going on, but it looked really sad and unappetizing. A fresh pizza was ordered instead. We had it topped with pepperoni, onions, black olives, and green chilis. This was my first tasting of green chili in the area. They made a very nice topping...



Nolita Corner Bistro:

This was another restaurant in downtown El Paso which was recommended. Burgers aren't normally my first choice on a menu, but the Toreado Burger caught my attention mostly because I didn't know what a toreado was. Turned out a toreado is a roasted jalepeno. The burger was topped with the toreados, provolone cheese, sliced avocado, mushrooms, and cilantro. I picked something called Sidewinders as my side which I actually enjoyed more than the burger. These were a combination of a wedge fry and a curly fry, with some really tasty seasonings.

El Paso Convention Center Tacos:

I had these from a food truck at the El Paso Convention Center. Pretty standard Mexican style tacos with meat topped with cabbage, cheese, and lime. 


Chico's Tacos:
Chico's Tacos was a local chain with several locations, most of them open late at night. I visited the original Chico's Tacos location on Alameda Avenue which has been around since 1953. This place was interesting. The tacos which Chico's serves weren't like tacos I know. These were rolled up tortillas filled with ground beef, then drenched in a pool of red sauce and covered in cheese. The tacos were tasty junk food, but I don't know if I'd rush out to get tacos like this again.



Juarez, Mexico:

El Paso and Juarez, Mexico are basically one city with a pesky international border. My hotel was located a few blocks from the border and I could see more of Mexico than the United States from the hotel's window. Because of this, I had to venture into Juarez while I was in El Paso. After the easiest border crossing/customs I've ever been through, I spent a few hours in the city. I didn't have any food in Juarez, but something food related worth noting was The Kentucky Bar. The Kentucky has been around since 1920 and their claim to fame is having invented the Margarita.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Tapa Toro Sunday Brunch in Orlando, FL

I was invited to come along to Tapa Toro to sample some of their brunch items. They are located on International Drive in I-Drive 360. Tapa Toro's Sunday Brunch happens weekly from 11am - 3pm.

Apple Pie Sangria: Made with the Tapa Toro Housemade apple juice syrup spiked with nutmeg, cinnamon and fresh ginger.

House Made Focaccia Sandwich: Ham, chorizo, serrano, olive spread, and olive oil. This was one of the tastiest sandwiches I've had in a while!

Poached Egg Toast: House alioli on on ciabatta bread with pickled shallots.

Tapa Toro Chicken n Pancakes: Fried chicken milanese, fried eggs, and a house honey glaze.

Three Little Pigs: Cheese grits, pork belly, chicharrones, and chorizo.

Pretty much everything I tried from Tapa Toro's brunch menu was delicious! The flamenco dancing that was also happening in the restaurant was a nice touch as well!

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