Saturday, December 23, 2006

Restaurant Review - Zaxby's Chicken, 4067 Millenia Blvd, Orlando, Florida

Zaxby's is a fast-food chicken restaurant chain that has recently hit Central Florida. We visited the location across the street from the Millenia Mall (near the Target) but there is also a location in Kissimmee on John Young Parkway. Zaxby's has a nice look when you walk in - nice dark wood for booths and eclectic stuff hanging all over the place similar to a Bennigan's. But, it is still a fast-food restaurant so while not completely messy and dirty, not exactly sparkling clean either. However, it was a busy Saturday for lunch and we were able to find a mostly clean table for us. Grandma stayed with the boys at the table while Grandpa and I went up to order the food. If you are wondering what is on the menu at Zaxby's, it's one word - CHICKEN. You can get chicken wings, chicken fingers, chicken salad, salad with chicken on it, chicken sandwiches, etc. The menu board is a little overwhelming at first so I looked in the middle where the "Most Popular" dishes were displayed with photos. There are no descriptions of the menu items anywhere so I had to ask the order taker several questions before I was sure of what I wanted. For example, the Big Zax Snak Meal is just a smaller version of the Chicken Fingers Plate, but with a drink and without coleslaw. I choose the Wings & Things (which by the way is ONLY located in the Most Popular section and nowhere else on the menu board) which is a "sampler" platter if you will of 5 wings, 3 chicken fingers, crinkle fries, and Texas Toast for $5.99. I added on a regular drink for $1.29. For the boys, I got BB the Kiddie Fingers Kidz Meal (I assume they are made out of chicken!) and for LB the Kiddie Cheese (grilled cheese), both $2.99, both come with a drink, fries, and a surprise. By the way, those are the only choices for the kids' meals so if your kid likes wings, you might have to get a regular meal. Grandpa also went for the Wings & Things and Grandma got the Big Zax Snak Meal for $4.99. I went to get drinks while Grandpa waited for our order.

They certainly have a nice selection of Coke products including Barq's Root Beer, Sweet and Regular Tea, and lemondade. Grandpa yelled over that he wanted the Fanta Cherry Soda. BB ran up to me and declared that he wanted the same. I had never tried Fanta Cherry so I took a sip of BB's before I gave it to him. Yuck! It tasted like a 7-Eleven cherry Slurpee that has melted and you are just left with the cherry syrup. So of course, BB LOVED it! He and Grandpa thought it was the greatest drink ever. I went back and got sweet tea for me and lemonade for LB. A few minutes later our orders arrived via Grandpa. Wow! You sure get a lot of food for the money at Zaxby's! My plate was loaded with food. A nice touch was including celery and carrots sticks with the wings. Also, Zaxby's provides Ranch dressing with the wings and their own Zaxby's sauce for chicken fingers. It's hard to describe the Zaxby's sauce except to say it was good - and was a great dipping sauce for the crinkle-cut fries as well. It was almost like a Big Mac's secret sauce. I had ordered my wings mild - and they were - so they tasted nice. My only complaint was that the wings were a little small, although I barely finished my entire meal so the big chicken fingers really made up for the wings' smallness. Might be different if you just order wings for your meal, though. Grandpa ordered his wings Medium and he thought they were a little too mild. The kids' meals came in a bag that also had a fun "toy" featuring the Zaxby's chicken mascot. LB's grilled cheese came on a folded up Texas Toast piece and it looked good! (I am a sucker for Texas Toast). He and BB ate all of their meals. The food was very good and I would definitely go back.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Coming Soon to a Grocery Store Shelf Near You - acne-fighting chocolate, caffeine attracting stirrer, milk flavoring straws

I did what I never do - I bought a weekly magazine at the check-out line at the grocery store. Why? Because Chef Mickey (as in Mickey Mouse) was on the cover of Woman's World magazine along with a slice of Disney's Pop Century Resort's famous Tie-Dyed Cheesecake. As a Disney-phile and Cast Member, I was very curious. Turns out there was a whole spread on various sweet recipes from Walt Disney World, including the cheesecake, so I was pretty pleased with my purchase. And, despite the wildly different graphics and fonts on every page of the magazine that look like someone just threw stories and pictures on the pages wherever they fit, some of the stuff inside was kind of interesting. As a Foodie, I was amazed to find another spread on upcoming food items that are coming our way soon (or are already here). [If anyone out there gets Woman's World magazine -- is this something they do every week?] So, here is a run-down of the most interesting foods on that page:

BORBA Clarifying Chocolate Bar - available at Nordstrom and gourmet food stores now - $8 for an 1.8 oz bar. This chocolate bar contains walnut husks, pomegranate and green tea extracts that is supposed to remove toxins, prevent blemishes, and improve the clarity of your skin. At first, I couldn't tell if you were supposed to eat the chocolate or rub it all over your face! Supposedly, you are supposed to eat the chocolate and, apparently, BORBA has a whole line of drinkable and edible skincare at Nordstrom. I really can't see how this works, but I hope it at least tastes good!

The DeCaf Company stirrer - should be available next year in the coffee aisle of your local supermarket according to the article. Okay, this sounds pretty cool! There are these caffeine-attracted polymers on the stirrer and with a few stirs of your coffee or tea, up to 70% of the caffeine is removed from your beverage. That could come in handy if you want to try the latest flavored blends and they aren't available in decaf (and you are like me and get headaches from too much caffeine). I might have to look out for these next year.

SIPahh Milk Flavouring Straws ( - available in January at supermarkets nationwide in packets of 10 straws. By the "ou" in flavouring I'm sure you've already guessed that this must be an import - you're right! It's currently available in Australia and New Zealand. According to other sources I found on the internet, the flavors available are chocolate, strawberry, banana, and caramel, as well as "new" flavors choc mint, toffee apple, and cookies & cream, although I don't know if all of those flavors will come here to the States. The concept is that you have a plain glass of milk, drop the special SIPahh straw in, drink and voila! you are drinking flavored milk. The straw apparently has flavored beads inside it that stay inside via a one-way valve so the milk flows through but the beads stay in. The beads gradually dissolve as they impart flavor. I found another blog post from someone who had tried it and they didn't give it a good review because they said there wasn't much chocolate flavor and that it was hard to get the milk to go through the straw. We'll see, I'll have to test it on BB and LB when it comes out - they love chocolate milk but not all restaurants offer it - that should solve that problem.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Restaurant Review - Q'Kenan, a Venezuelan cafe, 8117 Vineland Ave, Orlando, FL

Grandma and Grandpa, who are always on the hunt for new restaurants, were referred to Q'Kenan by a fan of the place. Otherwise, I don't think we would have found it. Q'Kenan is located in the Pubix shopping center next door to Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede and the Premium Outlet mall. The restaurant is around the corner from Publix, behind the Walgreens, in a small, but pleasant space. There are booths lined up along the left side of Q'Kenan with a counter showcasing some of the food along the right side. Above the counter is a board with photos of the Venezuelan specialties on the menu - a big plus for us since we were not familiar with the food.

When Grandma, Grandpa, the boys and I sat down, a server arrived immediately to answer any questions about the menu. In fact, the servers here are extremely nice, especially to "gringos" like us, and patiently explain the different types of food and offer suggestions. I had thought I would be familiar with some of the cuisine but it was very different from the Cuban food I was used to in Miami. Starting with the beverages -- besides the standard soft drinks, Q'Kenan also offers several interesting items such as Malta (a malt soda) and Frescolita (a very sweet red soda) which Grandpa and Grandma ordered. My Little Boy (LB) was crying for chocolate milk so I asked our server if there was something similar. He suggested a Toddy, which is listed as a chocolate milkshake on the menu, but which our server said was closer to chocolate milk. My Big Boy (BB) decided he wanted a Toddy too. I saw my favorite -- watermelon juice -- listed on the menu but was told that they were out of that. This was true on a subsequent visit as well so perhaps watermelon juice is seasonal. I wasn't too interested in the other juices available - Blackberry, Papaya, etc. - so I just got a water (I know, I'm very picky with my drinks). Grandpa enjoyed the Malta and said it was like a sweet root beer/cola drink. Grandma liked her Frescolita and said it was similar to Big Red which is a regional soda from Texas. The boys loved the Toddies. To me, it tasted kind of like a malt Ovaltine mixed with milk, but I was happy they liked it. Just from the beverages, I got the impression that Venezuelans like their food sweet, and when I saw the Cachapa, I knew I was right.

Now, from carnivals and fairs that I've visited, I always thought an Arepa was a thick, sweet corn pancake with white cheese inside. It turns out that in Venezuelan cuisine, the sweet corn pancake is actually a Cachapa and the Arepas are more similar to a crusty roll, such as for a sandwich. Q'Kenan's menu is sectioned by Carnes/Steaks, Pollo/Chicken, Arepas, Cachapas, and then other starters and sandwiches such as Empanadas, Tequenos (a type of fried cheese stick), and even a sandwich made with Platanos (sweet green bananas) as the "bread". There was one notation that said "Kid's Meal $5.99" but then nothing else. I found out that was a platter of chicken nuggets - kind of pricey - so I decided the boys would just share with me. Grandpa ordered the Parrilla Tepui Mixta for $11.99 which was really a mixed grill with beef, sausage, pork, chicken, yuca, arepa, fries and a house salad - a lot of food for the money. Grandma ordered just an Empanada ($1.95), which turned out to also be made out of corn meal, not the pastry I was used to in Miami. I ordered a Chicken and Avocado Arepa (Reina Pepeada) sandwich ($4.60), a Ham and Cheese Cachapa (Jamon y Queso Rallado - $6.49), and an order of black beans and rice ($4) for me and the boys.

Grandpa's Mixed Grill was huge. BB helped him eat the meats, which were just wonderful - very flavorful. Grandma's Empanada was also very good and she finished it quickly. When the Chicken Arepa arrived at the table, I was a bit taken aback. It looked like boiled chicken that had been soaked in the sour cream sauce. I tried a bit and it tasted like I expected - like a bland chicken salad. However, Grandma and BB liked it and ended up eating the rest. I also didn't like the texture of the Arepa, it was too dry and crusty for me. However, the Cachapa was fabulous. The corn pancake had been folded in half and then topped with sour cream. The ham with the blander cheese tasted fantastic with the sweet pancake. When Grandma saw it, she decided to order a plain cheese Cachapa since she was still hungry after her empanada. LB liked the Cachapa as well so it was a big winner all around. The black beans and rice came on a huge platter and was enough for our whole table. The food at Q'Kenan is a very good value for the money - we were all full and didn't have room for dessert. Q'Kenan is a very friendly place to try new foods that you may not have tried before.

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