Monday, January 31, 2011

Longhorn Steakhouse in Lake Mary, FL

I had a Darden gift card that I decided to use at Longhorn Steakhouse in Lake Mary. I ordered the Grilled Trout Topped with Shrimp & Lobster. The meal came a Caesar Salad which was served first.
The rainbow trout came out next, served with a side of mashed potatoes. It all tasted good, but I was disappointed with the shrimp & lobster. There were two little shrimp and one or two tiny pieces of lobster meat. The majority of the topping consisted of chopped tomatoes and corn. While it did taste good, the upcharge from the plain rainbow trout on the menu didn't seem worth it based on what I received.
Longhorn Steakhouse is a good restaurant to use a good coupon or Darden gift card. The food is normally good enough for what you would expect from a Darden chain, but it's not something I would go seek out without incentive...

LongHorn Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 28, 2011

Cracker Barrel

Today I'm talking about Cracker Barrel...
In my travels, I ate lunch at the Cracker Barrel right off of I-95 in Elkton, MD. It had been a long time since I had visited one of these restaurants, so I had somewhat forgotten what the menu was like. Breakfast is served all day and some of their breakfast items are quite affordable. The egg sandwich served on sourdough bread with a side of hashbrown casserole was only $4. The price was good, but when everyone at the table ordered these $4 breakfasts, the waitress got kind of nasty. I guess she did the math and figured the tip on a table of three worth $12 rather than a table spending $30 wasn't worth her time. Whenever she did return to the table, the waitress kept on making awkward religious statements. Thought it was a bit inappropriate in a chain restaurant and overall was just weird. Decent egg sandwich though!
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store on Urbanspoon

During another recent visit to Cracker Barrel, this time closer to home, I had dinner at the restaurant in Sanford, FL. The restaurant had a half hour wait which is totally not worth it, but it allowed time to browse the attached gift shop and see the surprisingly large inventory of Sarah Palin audiobooks and overpriced junk covered in bible verses. Perhaps the religious comments made at the Cracker Barrel in Elkton make more sense after taking a look at what they sell. Eventually, we were seated and I ordered the Rainbow Trout. It came with biscuits and two sides. I picked the hashbrown casserole and turnip greens.
I really had no complaints about the food itself. Everything I tried during this meal was tasty, although the presentation of the trout could have been vastly improved. It's a big plate. There's no reason to put the side on top of the fish, leaving the rest of the plate empty.
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store on Urbanspoon

On another visit to a Cracker Barrel somewhere, I tried their Chicken and Dumplings. The southern version of dumplings served with chicken and dumplings is interesting to me. When I think of dumplings, I think of them being filled with something, while these are just thick noodles. Is this typical of chicken and dumplings, or is this just how Cracker Barrel does it?
Cracker Barrel has better food than I remember. I still would consider it travel food, not only because all of the Cracker Barrels that I know of are located along an interstate, but also because it seems that's almost always when I end up at one. For travel food though, it's definitely a better choice than a Denny's or Waffle House!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Il Forno in Lakeland, FL

I ate dinner at Il Forno in Lakeland. Hidden in the back of a strip mall, Il Forno seemed a little hard to find without already being in the mall. Apparently the location isn't hurting them since the restaurant was pretty crowded when I visited.
Pizza and Pastabilities
We ordered a large cheese pizza. Florida is the land of mediocre pizzas, so I wasn't expecting anything great. Not expecting much made it even better when it turned out Il Forno makes a very nice NY style pie. The pizza had a thin crust with a good sauce to cheese ratio. Some people find this disgusting, but I like it when oil begins to pool on the surface of the cheese on a pizza. It happened here. Beside being well made, the pizza was also very tasty. The sauce had good flavor and the cheese was nice and salty. Unfortunately, my picture of the slice doesn't do the pizza justice. Everyone at the table ravenously grabbed their slices with the pizza fresh out of the oven. Since the cheese was still a bit molten, it made the slice look a bit messy. It looked better in real life!
So far I've had three different pizzas in Lakeland. Il Forno has my favorite so far!
Il Forno on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 24, 2011

Hong Kong Chinese Food in Sanford, FL

I picked up some takeout from Hong Kong Chinese Food in Sanford. I ordered wonton soup and a small vegetable lo mein. It was about a ten minute wait for the food. As I was sitting there waiting, I witnessed two separate people come in and order something, then get on their phones to start complaining about how horrible it is that they are being forced to wait ten minutes for their crab rangoons. Really? Ten minutes is too long of a wait for some freshly made food? My ten minutes went by rather quickly thanks to the unintentional entertainment, and soon enough my food was ready.
The wonton soup was good. It didn't have any shredded pork at the bottom, but it still had tasty wontons and a nice flavored broth.
For a small order of lo mein, the portion was huge. I would be scared to see how humongous a large would be! The noodles were mixed with broccoli, cabbage, onions, bean sprouts, carrots, and mushrooms. Not the best lo mein I've ever had, but it was still tasty. I'd get food here again...
Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 21, 2011

Terra Mia Pizza in Lake Mary, FL

I've been wanting to try the pizza from Terra Mia for a while now, but I had difficulties tasting their food for the longest time. I tried visiting the Terra Mia in Lake Mary on a few occasions and each time there was either a huge wait or the restaurant was closed for the day. On another attempt to try Terra Mia's pizza, I visited their Longwood location only to find out they don't serve pizza there. Finally, the Pizza Gods must have smiled on me. On a recent evening, I was in Lake Mary and Terra Mia was both open and without a wait, and top it off, their pizza was really good too!

My pizza was topped with anchovies and kalamata olives. The crust was some of the thinnest I've had in the area while still having a nice rise around the edges. Somebody did a very nice job with the dough here. The flavor of the anchovies and olives combined with the salty cheese was a little strong, but I liked it.

With the majority of the pizza in the area being mediocre, it's refreshing to find someplace like Terra Mia that has good pizza!

Terra Mia on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lone Cabbage Fish Camp in Cocoa, FL

I ate lunch at the Lone Cabbage Fish Camp, located on 520 between Cocoa and Orlando. It's one of those places that reeks of classic Florida, located right along the St. Johns River with a constant flow of airboat traffic going by.
 As I was exiting the car, I spotted this concrete gator:
Then I walked down to the river and saw this gator peeking out of the water. Is it strange that while looking at this guy in the river, I decided I wanted some alligator for lunch?
Once inside, I started looking over the menu and decided to do one better than just alligator. I ordered the combo which consisted of not just one, but three river dwelling creatures. The combo came with alligator, frogs legs, catfish, hush puppies, cole slaw, and fries.
Everything on the plate was deep fried (except the cole slaw). It was far too much fried food and I ended up leaving some of it over. The gator was the best meat on the plate, with the catfish being tasteless and the frog legs being far too slimy for me to eat more than one. I would even say the frog legs were undercooked based on the consistency. I've only eaten the meat a couple other times though so I'm no expert.
Overall, the food was actually pretty bad here. The gator meat was the only thing that had any flavor in my plate. Normally with fried foods, the flavor is in the batter, but this wasn't the case here. Really though, you don't come to a place like the Lone Cabbage Fish Camp for the food. You come for the riverside dining environment. You come for views like this:

Lone Cabbage Fish Camp on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ichiban in Orlando, FL

I had lunch at Ichiban on Orange Ave in Downtown Orlando. After hearing nothing but good things about their food, I finally gave Ichiban a try...
Ichiban Sushi Bar
I ordered the Matsu Bento Box. It started with a salad.
Ichiban Salad
The box was filled with chicken, shrimp & vegetable tempura, california rolls, and fried rice. Everything in the box was delicious leaving me with no complaints about the food. This bento box did cost a bit more than other similar lunches I've had elsewhere. Given the downtown location and double meat, the higher price was fine, but it also would have been nice if they gave both soup and salad.
Bento Box
I enjoyed my meal and will be back...
Ichiban on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cayo Esquivel in Miami, FL

Continuing my weekend in Miami where I decided I really need to improve my spanish language skills, I found myself at a seafood restaurant called Cayo Esquivel...
Cayo Esquivel Seafood
One of Cayo Esquivel's daily specials was Salmon with almonds in pineapple sauce. It sounded interesting, so I decided to give it a try. Dinner rolls came out first along with a large plate of lime slices for the fish. Soon enough, the main course was served. The flavor combination on my salmon was interesting. I can't remember ever having pineapple sauce, especially over fish. The sauce was very smooth with the almonds adding a bit of crunch and wasn't quite as sweet as I was expecting. It was really good...
Salmon in Pineapple Sauce
The salmon came with rice and a salad made mostly of cabbage with a great dressing. Kind of like cole slaw, only better...
Cayo Esquivel Sides
Another diner at the table ordered this Avocado Salad. I guess non-seafood items aren't ordered here often because the waitress seemed surprised and kept on asking ¿No pescado? repeatedly when taking the order...
Avocado Salad

Cayo Esquivel Seafood, Inc. on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

El Palacio de Los Jugos in Miami, FL

I visited El Palacio de Los Jugos on Flagler Ave during a recent visit to Miami. It was in my conciousness since I remembered seeing an episode of VendrTV on the place so I decided to check it out.
El Palacio de Los Jugos
El Palacio de Los Jugos was set up with several counters, each selling a different type of food. There was an outdoor pork counter, seafood counter, and sandwich/coffee counter. Inside, there was the juice counter as well as lots of fruits and vegetables for sale.
El Palacio de Los Jugos
pork counter
Japanese Tourists
When I was going to order something, I realized that there was zero English being spoken here. It was really quite intimidating with my very limited Spanish language skills, but I was able to manage by walking up to the juice counter with Jugo de mamey, por favor. It got the point across and I received my cup of mamey juice.
Mamey Juice
Since this was the Juice Palace, I was expecting good juice. The mamey juice did not disappoint. It tasted like pumpkin pie in liquid form. The cup was huge and it only cost $2! Because I had previous plans for dinner (and they ended up being closed) when I happened upon El Palacio de Los Jugos, I unfortunately didn't try any of the food on this visit. I'm definitely making a point to return here to sample some of their Cuban food on a future excursion to Miami!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Santa's Enchanted Forest in Miami, FL

On my last trip down to South Florida, the tentative plan was to going to involve seeing Cirque du Soleil's Kooza. It turned out they had sold out several days in advance when I went to buy our tickets, so I decided to look for some sort of alternate form of entertainment. This ended up being a trip to Santa's Enchanted Forest in Southwest Miami...
Santa's Enchanted Forest
Santa's Enchanted Forest turned out to be a huge fair with lots of Christmas themed dioramas. Being that it was a fair, they had all the appropriate deep fried carnival food...
There were also lots of other vendors selling pretty interesting foods. Lots of Latin-American foods and many of these vendors seemed local rather than touring with the carnival. Here's a stand selling steak kabobs cooked on a spinning rack over an open flame.
steak kabobs
It was a cold evening, so I got myself a nice warm cup of hot cocoa...
It turned out I got my circus fix too. I suppose it was totally different from the circus experience I would have gotten from Cirque du Soleil, but I'm not complaining...


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