Friday, December 25, 2015

Ikea Orlando's Julbord Holiday Buffet

I was invited to visit IKEA and try their Julbord Holiday Buffet. According to IKEA's website, Julbord is a classic Christmas dinner in Scandinavian countries. The word “Julbord” is made up of two parts: “Jul,” meaning Yule (synonymous with Christmas) and “Bord,” meaning table. 
The all-you-can-eat smörgåsbord happened in the Orlando IKEA on December 11, 2015 in their restaurant. The center of the restaurant was transformed into an abundant spread of delicious foods.
There was assorted breads and crackers.
IKEA served some of their standards including their meatballs.
Mashed potatoes:
Prinskorv sausages were new to me. According to Wikipedia, the name translates to prince sausages.
Red Cabbage:
There was a huge spread of crawfish to choose from.
I really like IKEA's Red Beet Salad. I first tried this at another IKEA media event last year. It was delicious this time around too.
Swedish Potato Salad:
Hard Boiled Eggs:
This was a type of potato casserole. This was interesting by having a sweet aftertaste.
Gravad lax is one of my favorite foods from IKEA. I helped myself to far too much of this delicious cured salmon.
Christmas Ham:
IKEA served lots of assorted desserts, including cakes, cookies, rice pudding, and chocolates.
With that overview of the Julbord Holiday buffet, here's my two plates of delicious foods. Plate #1 was loaded up with crawfish, salmon, cucumber salad, meatballs, sausage, carrots, and mashed potatoes.
Plate #2 had ham, gravad lax, assorted salads, cheese, and the potato casserole.
I really enjoyed trying the Julbord Holiday Buffet. I had tried going here a few years ago but ended up trying to get my tickets too late and it was sold out. For future reference, buy your tickets early! I'm glad I finally had the chance to visit this year and sample all the delicious Swedish Christmas foods!

Monday, December 14, 2015

TR Fire Grill Grand Opening in Winter Park, FL

I was invited to the grand opening of TR Fire Grill in Winter Park. This is another of the newly opened restaurants to go into the slowly developing Ravaudage shopping area at the intersection of 17-92 and Lee Road. Of the three restaurants which are currently open there, TR Fire Grill definitely seems to be the most upscale. At the grand opening event, sample sized portions of various menu items were being served. The following are some of the highlights:
Pulled Pork Tacos:
Hawaiian Ahi Tuna:
Prime Rib Egg Roll and Prime Rib:
Shrimp & Grits:
Deviled Egg, Meatball, Salad, Macaroni & Cheese, and Seared Cauliflower.
Pumpkin Cheesecake:
Buttery Seared Lemon Pound Cake:
Wonuts: These are the menu item I was looking most forward to trying. The wonuts were a cross between a waffle and a doughnut, dipped in chocolate and topped with powdered sugar. They didn't quite taste like a waffle or a doughnut. They were somewhere in between and were nowhere as sweet as I was expecting. These are only served at the restaurant during Sunday brunches.
I liked what I tasted at TR Fire Grill. I did notice that much of the non-dessert food was pretty spicy compared to what I find at most restaurants. I personally was a fan of the spice, but it was overwhelming for the person I ate here with. I wonder what the spice tolerance of the general public is? Regardless, TR Fire Grill seems like a nice addition to Winter Park!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Pizza Time in St. Augustine, FL

I was visiting St. Augustine and stopped for dinner at Pizza Time on St. George Street. St. Augustine's Christmas parade apparently happened earlier in the day and the city was packed. It was wall to wall people all over, and Pizza Time was no exception. The first time I walked by the restaurant, the line was out the door and up the street. At that point, I didn't try getting food at the restaurant with a line that long.
A few hours later I was walking back towards my car and the crowds had subsided substantially. The line was confined to the inside of the restaurant. I still hadn't eaten dinner, so I decided to see what all the crowds were about. They had signs hanging up that Pizza Time was voted the Second Best Pizza in the US by Trip Advisor, so I figured their pizza must be pretty good.
I ordered two slices. One was a slice of White Pizza, and the other was the Foccacia Pizza. The white was okay, but was sort of a cheese overload. This sauceless pie was topped with lots and lots of mozzarella and ricotta. I'm not a fan of pizzas where there is too much cheese for the crust to support. Here, there was so much cheese that it was pooling off onto the plate every time I moved the slice. Pizza components should be well proportioned. I liked the Foccocia much better. Like the White pizza, this slice was also sauceless but also held together much better. It was topped with kalamada olives, onions, celery, basil, tomatoes, and cheese. I have never tried celery on a pizza and didn't know quite how it would work as a topping. The crunch was nice!
I liked one out of the two slices at Pizza Time. I don't know if I'd vote them second best in the country just yet, but they do have something going for them. Beware though. They are cash only...

Pizza Time Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Cowgirls Rockbar Orlando Grand Opening in Orlando, FL

I was invited to the grand opening of Cowgirls Rockbar at I-Drive 360. This is a new bar/restaurant located on International Drive in the same complex as the Orlando Eye ferris wheel. The theme of Cowgirls Rockbar seems pretty self-explanatory by the name. They feature Orlando's only mechanical bull, bartenders who stand on the bar and dance, and potentially very elusive southern-style food (keep reading for more on that).
Here's the menu for the grand opening. Because I was limited on time and Cowgirls was very crowded, I didn't actually get a chance to try any of the food on this visit. I'm in the International Drive area pretty often so I figured I'd try their food on another day.
I found myself back on I-Drive a little less than two weeks later at dinner time and decided to try the food at Cowgirls. No such luck. We walked into a completely empty Cowgirls and were told that they only serve food on weekends. I know they're mostly a bar, but there were no people drinking here on a weeknight. With the lack of customers, I wish Cowgirls luck with not serving food during the week. I double checked their press release just to make sure the food wasn't just a grand opening thing, and it looks like the original plan was to serve food for lunch and dinner every day. I guess things change...

Cowgirls Rockbar Orlando is NOW OPEN

Boots, beers, and Orlando's only mechanical bull bring a new vibe to I-Drive 360  
ORLANDO, Fla. - (Nov. 19, 2015) - Time to cowboy up Orlando - Cowgirls Rockbar Orlando is now open!

The Cowgirls guarantee a good time The new restaurant and bar at I-Drive 360 features Orlando's only mechanical bull and is the perfect place to kick up some dust, enjoy a cold longneck, sip a whiskey or grab some BBQ.

Cowgirls Rockbar is quickly becoming known for its beautiful Cowgirls who serve up Southern-style dishes and cold drinks along with plenty of banter. Getting to know the servers and bartenders is all part of the experience. So is dancing on top of the bar at any moment.

At the center of it all is the mechanical bull. It's ready and willing for anyone who wants to go for a ride; speeds range from super-slow to hang-on-for-your-life. It's the star of the show, whether you're on top of the bull or just watching from a bar stool.

Cowgirls piled-high BBQ pulled pork sandwich Cowgirls is open for both lunch and dinner. Signature dishes include BBQ platters piled high with smoked brisket, pulled pork and smoked turkey, along with southern-style sides like mac 'n cheese, baked beans, coleslaw and cornbread. Guests can also get a bowl of Cowgirls Almost Famous Gumbo, filled with smoked chicken, andouille sausage, crawfish, okra, peppers and more - slowly simmered in a dark Louisiana roux. Finish it off with an old-fashioned root beer float or banana pudding.

Cowgirls is quickly becoming one of Orlando's top spots for a wild night out for birthdays, bachelorette parties or other special events. DJ's will keep the party going all night long with a mix of country, pop and rock hits. And there's no better location, as it's just steps from the Orlando Eye.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Zambia Smokehouse at Busch Gardens

We're going to talk theme park food today. I ate lunch at Zambia Smokehouse during a recent visit to Busch Gardens. This restaurant is located under the Sheikra roller coaster, which could be a good or bad thing whether or not you enjoy the roar of a coaster train every minute or so. Historically, I've thought the Sea World owned parks have had the weakest food of the three big theme park companies in Central Florida, but that seems to be changing with some of more recent food experiences with their parks (some, not all). Because of this, I was a little worried if Zambia Smokehouse would live up to Busch Gardens' reputation of nasty food, or if it would be passable...
I ordered the Brisket Platter. This came with three large slices of brisket, French fries, and a roll. In terms of the sides, the fries were what was expected and the roll was disappointing. It was flavorless mushy white bread and left me with no desire to finish the thing. The brisket was actually very tasty. It was nice and lean, unlike some brisket I've had with turns out to be half fat. It had a nice smokey taste and was coated with a rub which provided an extra burst of flavor around the edges of the meat.
While the sides at Zambia Smokehouse could have used some work, the brisket here was good. For a theme park where I've had horrible meals in the past, me liking the brisket was a win for Busch Gardens. Comparing that to the past few quick service meals I've had at Magic Kingdom which have ranged from bad to inedible, I think it's time for Disney to step up their food game again when I'm liking Busch Gardens' food better...

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Sea Thai in Orlando, FL

I had dinner at Sea Thai in Orlando. Sea apparently stands for South East Asia rather than anything to do with seafood. I know this restaurant from the countless awards that they won over the years, but this was my first visit to Sea Thai.
I ordered the Spicy Basil Duck. This dish was served in a sizzling skillet. The duck was served with sweet basil, chili, onions, scallions, and bell peppers in a slightly spicy sauce. I enjoyed the crispy skin on the duck. While some of the meat was nice and tender, there were other parts which were tough and chewy. Different parts of the duck perhaps? The sauce was good, although it wasn't as spicy as the menu advertised. My biggest complaint with the dish was that there wasn't enough sauce. Being that the plate was hot and sizzling, most of the liquid in the sauce evaporated. I would have liked to use some of that sauce to flavor the rice that was served on the side.
I liked what I tried at Sea Thai. With my one data point of eating here, I don't know if I'd be willing to rate it as the Best of Orlando like all their awards do just yet, but I'd go back!

Sea Thai Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Whole Foods Holiday Menu Tasting Event (Phillips Crossing)

Recently I was invited to enjoy a sampling of the Whole Foods Market holiday menu. The event happened at the Phillips Crossing Whole Foods off Sand Lake Road and what a cornucopia of deliciousness it was! The variety and creativity of the prepared offerings along with menu planning assistance will surely alleviate the stress of any gathering. Bring on the festivities! 

To begin, I tasted a luscious French blue cheese called Persille du Beaujolais served with a honeycomb to balance the savory notes. I learned that persille means parsleyed in french and just describes the blue green veining throughout blue cheese. The creamery in France overlooks Beaujolais vineyards, but it was truly dreamy when I paired it with a white Vin de Savio Apremont, which is a top 10 holiday wine pick. I also found out that Whole Foods Certified Cheese Professionals can create a cheese and wine pairing menu just for the asking. 
Cranberry Walnut and Fig Stuffed Brie is a layer cake made of American artisan Brie filled and topped with cranberries and caramelized walnuts and fig spread. It was a beautiful presentation available in a small or large stack.
Next I tried the St James Smoked Salmon platter. Scottish salmon cold smoked with oak, with no nitrates or preservatives, only a buttery silkiness served with hot house cucumbers, red onions, capers, and sliced eggs, David, the Regional Seafood Coordinator mentioned that St James has a smokehouse in Miami-- nice to support local-- and that the salmon are fed a high quality diet, that I found palpable in the flavor. In addition, the company prides themselves on sustainability. 
The Sasasian Caviar served on bite sized blini with creme fraiche was outstanding. There were three types offered: Truffle Pearls,Trout, and Imperial and I liked them all! The pop of the lightly salted glistening eggs was a tantalizing treat for all the senses.
Of course there was moist roasted turkey and an array of accompaniments and options. Here's the Bell and Evans smoked Cornish hens.
72 hour Beef Short Ribs
One of my favorite sides were the harvest root vegetables, kale, tender brussels sprouts, and butternut squash with candied pecans and cranberries dusted with cinnamon.
There's also a hearty Vegan Field Roast En Croute as a meat alternative. Grains are used as a vegetarian protein combined with squash, mushrooms, apples and spices wrapped in an outer layer. It is a great alternative to soy based proteins.
Pumpkin Cheesecake was creamy, without being too heavy, and had perfect undertones of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and of course pumpkin. It is a creative twist on the traditional pumpkin pie.
Fruit Cake also was sampled and it was nothing like the much maligned variety. It was very moist, tender, and dark with the sumptuous, soft fruits used mainly as a topping. This Fruit Cake would definitely be consumed immediately and certainly not re-gifted! 
With so many wonderful choices from Whole Foods Market here's to happy holidays
and eating!

(Written by Florence R.)


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