Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Quick Bites - Crazy Good Swedish food deals at IKEA, 4092 Eastgate Drive, Orlando, FL

I guess I haven't been paying attention to the restaurant at IKEA lately, but they have some great deals going on!

Swedish Christmas Julbord
First of all, this Friday, December 11th at 6 pm is IKEA of Orlando's first All You Can Eat Swedish Christmas Julbord. According to IKEA's website, a Swedish Julbord is the traditional smorgasbord served during the holidays. Prices are $15.99 for adults and $2.49 for kids 12 and under (wow, great kids price!). IKEA also mentions that tickets are for sale at their restaurant and seating is limited.

Wednesday Night Specials
Next, every Wednesday night you can get a baby back ribs platter for $7.99, from 4 pm to 7:30 pm (the restaurant's closing time). No, I don't think baby back ribs are Swedish, but there you go! The plate has a 1/2 rack of baby back ribs, french fries and corn bread. Also, Wednesday is Kids Night with kids 12 and younger eating free from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm (the store stays open until 8:00 pm).

FREE Breakfast During Weekdays
From 9:30 am - 10 am Monday through Friday, you can get a breakfast platter at IKEA for FREE! The breakfast platter includes scrambled eggs, bacon and potatoes. Oh, and the same deal is on the weekends, just for 99¢ (but 10:30 am - 11 am on Sundays). You can add three Swedish pancakes (my favorites) for $1.99. The restaurant opens a half hour before the store so you'll have to wait until 10 am (11 am on Sunday) to do any shopping.

Check out all these deals on their website: IKEA of Orlando Restaurant

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Restaurant Review - TooJay's Original Gourmet Deli, 10185 West Colonial Drive, Ocoee, FL

If you are looking for enormous corned beef sandwiches on thick-cut rye bread with hot deli mustard, then TooJay’s Original Gourmet Deli is for you. But TooJay’s has a lot more than just deli food, although that is their specialty.

In fact, when we recently dined at the Ocoee location for dinner, it took me a while to read through the regular menu and special dinner menu. There are soups, salads, and sandwiches, plus dinner entrees such as meatloaf, lasagna, pot roast, and also baked salmon with dill sauce, peppercorn crusted steak, and even vegetarian options. All of the dinner entrees come with slices of rye bread on the side and a choice of soup or salad. There are also specialty drinks such as old-fashioned egg creams and Dr. Brown sodas.

The kid’s menu also offers a lot of choices as well with grilled cheese, hot dog, peanut butter and jelly, French bread pizza, or mac-n-cheese (available for $3.75), and hamburger, cheeseburger, chicken tenders salad, chicken tenders, or a Jr. tuna melt (available for $4.75). While the kids’ entrees don’t include a drink, they do include a choice of two of the following: applesauce, French fries, Mandarin oranges, red grapes, chocolate pudding, mini Black and White cookie, or carrot sticks with Ranch dressing. The hard part is trying to convince your kids that they cannot choose both the chocolate pudding and Black and White cookie as their sides.

Grandpa decided on a hot Pastrami sandwich on rye bread ($7.95) which comes with cole slaw and a pickle. He also elected to get an extra side of fries ($1.75). The sandwich had the meat rolled on the bread and was a huge amount. However, for those with an even bigger appetite, TooJay’s offers the Jaynormous sandwich ($14.95) that has a pound and a half of your favorite deli meat. I can’t even imagine eating that! Grandpa loved the Pastrami and said it was very lean and delicious.

Grandma, went for sweet and ordered the Cheese Blintzes dinner ($10.75). This is three crepes filled with a sweetened cottage cheese, fried, and served with fruit topping and sour cream. Since it was a dinner, it also came with the rye bread and Grandma ordered the cup of matzo ball soup as her appetizer. The soup was very flavorful with chunks of carrots and celery and a large, but light, matzo ball that fills the whole cup. She polished off all of the blintzes, smearing each with the blueberry fruit topping and sour cream first.

Knowing how large the portions of food at TooJay’s are, I decided on the Half Sandwich and Soup or Salad ($7.95), ordering a Corned Beef on rye and a cup of the matzo ball soup as well. I put a bit of the hot mustard on the sandwich and yum! The corned beef was very lean and the matzo ball soup was comfort food at its best.

LB ordered the peanut butter and jelly sandwich with applesauce and chocolate pudding on the side ($3.75). The sandwich was cut into quarters, which was nice, although my son thought there was too much jelly (I’ll have to order “light jelly” next time). He, of course, wanted to dig into the chocolate pudding as soon as they set down his plate, but I pulled it off his plate until he finished his dinner.

BB ordered the French Bread Pizza, with French fries and the Black and White mini-cookie ($3.75). The pizza was a small baguette sliced diagonally with sauce and cheese and was pretty good. He actually got full on the pizza and fries and had to take the cookie home.

All of the adults were also full so we didn’t order any desserts although they are very tempting. Besides large slices of chocolate cake, TooJay’s also has smaller desserts such as the mini-cookies and mini-Napoleans and mini-Eclairs. In fact, you have to pass the deli and dessert counter on the way out and we ended up getting a little dessert “to go” to eat at home later.

Website: http://www.toojays.com/

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Restaurant Review - The Cheesecake Factory, Mall of Millenia, 4200 Conroy Road, Orlando, FL

For the first time in its history, The Cheesecake Factory has developed a kids menu. The new menu was released in September, and offers kid-friendly food, including a drink, for $4 - $7. There are a lot of offerings including pasta, mini-burgers, grilled cheese, quesadillas, mac-n-cheese, chicken strips, pizza, and others.
To match, the adult menu is huge, as well. It is almost like a catalog and even has advertisements (I kid you not). To break down your decision, you should first decide what kind of food you want: American, Italian, Mexican, Asian, etc. Then, you can decide whether you want an appetizer, a salad, a sandwich or a main meal. Yep, they have all of that and more.

While deciding, we munched on the sour dough and pumpernickel breads our server brought us. And truly, we had to send the server away twice until we finally decided what to get.

On our first visit, Grandpa ordered the Beef Ribs ($25.95), a very large plate of beef ribs served with fries and onion rings. While he agreed there was a lot of food and the taste was okay, he wasn't sure if it was worth the high price. Grandma, who clearly had her eye on the cheesecake display case, ordered a Margherita Pizzette ($4.95), basically a small, oval pizza, with large chunks of mozzerella and slivers of basil. She thought it was the perfect size for a pizza snack. I had the Fresh Fish Tacos ($14.95), an extremely large platter with three tacos, rice, black beans, and salsa and guacamole on the side. It was very messy to eat, with pieces of grilled fish and cabbage falling out constantly, but it was wonderful. There was a lot of fish per taco and the spicy avocado cream gradually increased in spiciness the more I ate. I was only able to finish two of the tacos and make only a small dent in the rice and beans.

BB ordered the kids pasta with alfredo sauce ($6.95), while LB and my two nieces ordered the kids mini-corn dogs with fries ($5.95). The pasta was a good size and my son was only able to eat a little over half of the serving. The corn dogs came as three skewers of the dogs, covered with corn meal, and a large serving of fries. I don't exactly know what made these dogs "mini" because, although they were shorter than normal, they were pretty thick. All three kids were only able to eat two of the skewers.

On another visit, all of us decided to try the Factory Appetizer Favorites ($28.95) as our shared meal, which is a very large version of an appetizer sampler. LB decided to get the kids mini-corn dogs again which was a good decision as I don't know how much of the appetizers he would have wanted to eat. That left four of us (Grandma, Grandpa, BB, and me), which worked out well as each appetizer came with four pieces. Four separate dishes arrived holding the Quesadillas, Pot Stickers, Summer Rolls, Calamari, Buffalo Blasts, Corn Cakes, Spinach & Artichoke dip, Avocado Eggrolls, and all of the associated sauces. The big winners were the Avocado Eggrolls (creamy/crunchy goodness), Pot Stickers (very flavorful), Corn Cakes (sweet and spicy all together), and Calamari (delicate, not chewy). No one really liked the Summer Rolls, cold rice wrappers filled with noodles. It was a good way to sample many of the appetizers, but it really wasn't enough food to be a meal for all four of us. The plus side is that left room for dessert!

Of course, you can't go to The Cheesecake Factory without getting cheesecake, right? They typically have between 20 and 30 cheesecakes available, with some seasonal selections as well. Slices are $6.75 to $7.95. The slices might look small, but they are very rich and I suggest sharing. We ordered a slice of the 30th Anniversary Chocolate Cake Cheesecake ($7.50) and a slice of Adam's Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple Cheesecake ($6.95) on our first visit, and the seasonal Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake on our second visit. The 30th Anniversary cake has a layer of cheesecake along with chocolate cake and a fudge layer. It ended up as the overall favorite. The peanut butter one was super rich and had cheesecake swirled with caramel, peanut butter, and peanut butter cups. I absolutely loved the Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake - it was my personal favorite. I was expecting pumpkin cheesecake with pecans in it. Nope, it was even better. It was a pumpkin cheesecake ON TOP OF a pecan pie. A double decker pie - two pies in one! The creamy cheesecake went great with the ooey gooey pecan pie. We will definitely be back to tackle more of the menu and try more of the cheesecakes.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Restaurant Review - Menchie's Frozen Yogurt, 7339 W. Sand Lake Road, #406, Orlando, FL

Menchie's Frozen YogurtMenchie’s Frozen Yogurt, located on Sand Lake Road’s “Restaurant Row”, is a fun, interactive dessert store. It is do-it-yourself with simple instructions: Fill your bowl with frozen yogurt. Top with snacks and candies and sauces. Weigh. Then pay. For 44 cents an ounce, you can get what you want, in the quantity you want. The concept is brilliant. The staff just makes sure the toppings are kept filled up and then monitor the scale as Pick Your Flavorscustomers finish their creations and weigh and pay.

Don’t worry if there is a crowd milling about inside. Remember, this is do-it-yourself. So, step right up, grab a bowl, and start pouring your frozen yogurt. There are 12 flavors every time, with only chocolate and vanilla staying the same, as far as I could tell. With more than 40 different flavors, including seasonal offerings like pumpkin and eggnog, rotating constantly, you will find a different variety available almost every time you visit. At the “Snackage” bar, where the dry toppings reside, are about 30 different types of add-ins, including nuts (peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans), candies (Reese’s Pieces, chocolate chips, yogurt chips, Jelly Bellies, M&M, Snow Caps, Gummy Bears, Rainbow Nerds, etc), cereals (Cap’n Crunch, Lucky Charms, Fruity Pebbles, Cocoa Pebbles, etc.) anSnackage Bard other toppings like coconut flakes, granola, and graham cracker crumbs. At the “Chill” bar, are freshly cut fruits such as strawberry slices, maraschino cherries, mango, kiwi, bananas, pineapple, as well as the decadent stuff such as mini-peanut butter cups, cookie dough balls, mini-cheesecake bits, and even mochi, a sticky Japanese confectioChill barn. Finally, there is the “Hotties” sauce bar with caramel, chocolate, peanut butter sauce, and hot fudge, as well as marshmallow sauce and non-dairy whipped topping.

On our first visit, I tried both the Pralines ‘n’ Cream and Pistachio frozen yogurt flavors and thought they made a great combination. I added pecans, coconut flakes, mini-cheesecake bites, and then topped that off with caramel sauce. BB was happily moving along, getting his yogurt and toppings while I helped LB put the yogurt flavors he wanted into his cup. By the time we reached the scale to weigh our creations, I glanced over and noticed my older son’s cup was completely filled to the top with yogurt and toppings. Oh dear, I should have been watching more closely. I had the staff weigh his separately from ours and, as I suspected, he had passed the pound mark! Yep, at 44 cents an ounce, he was looking at a $7.80 cup of dessert. The real test was, did he finish it? Of cYep, that's a pound of dessert!ourse not! Luckily, Menchie’s has lids to place on your creation so you can take it home if you want.

Next time, I walked in and was shocked to find that most of the flavors had changed and my Pralines ‘n’ Cream AND Pistachio were gone. After a moment, I realized this was probably a good thing so I could try some of the other flavors and I would not be stuckMuch better quantity in a rut getting the same flavors every single time. This time, I did a Cookies ‘n’ Cream and Cheesecake swirl (if two flavors are in the same machine, you can do a swirl), and then added some of the French Vanilla flavor. I also added some different toppings, trying peanuts this time, Snow Caps, and strawberry slices.

You can also try tastes of the different flavors first with the provided mini paper cups. This is actually a pretty good idea. I did not try the Cappucino flavor before I added it to my cup and when I was eating it later, it had a very strong coffee taste (it should have been called Espresso instead). So definitely taste-test if you are not sure what a flavor will taste like.

This visit, I watched BB like a hawk, and stopped him several times by the yogurt machines as I saw him place too much of each flavor in his cup. I also had to watch him at the toppings bar as I discovered he was putting scoop after scoop of chocolate chips into his bowl. “Hey, this is a yogurt shop, not a candy store!”

LB was more adventurous than I thought, trying more than just chocolate and vanilla and venturing to the Irish Mint and the Cheesecake flavors, though his favorite was Cookies ‘n’ Cream. This time, all of our creations came out to around $15 total , putting us closer to the 10-12 ounces per cup mark.

This is currently the only Menchie’s location in Florida, although another is planned for Fort Lauderdale. The shopping area it is in has several other restaurants so parking can be tight. However, there are “30 minutes or less” parking spots right in front. Menchie’s has already become a habit with us and I look forward to going every couple of weeks, especially to discover the new flavors in store for us.

Website: http://www.menchies.com/

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Restaurant Musings - To Tip or Not to Tip for Take Out?

We have several new upscale chain restaurants in our area and we have become dinner lazy lately and have been ordering take-out. My favorite of the lot is Chili's because they have really made a nice guest experience of their Take Out. There are parking spaces just for Chili's To Go and a separate entrance and cash register as well so I don't have to wait at the bar and try to attract the bartender's attention so I can get my take out order. My angst is always - should I tip for Take Out? If I was eating in, I would certainly tip, of course. But when the restaurant seems to do a really good job of putting all of my food so nicely together in special take out boxes, including all accompaniments such as rolls and butter and dressings, I feel guilty just paying what is on the check. Does any one out there tip for Take Out?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Quick Bites - New Menus at Quick Service Restaurants at Mexico Pavilion at Epcot Theme Park

Cantina de San Angel menuToday for lunch I went to Cantina de San Angel at the Mexico Pavilion at Epcot because I had heard from @AmandaTinney that this quick-serve restaurant now serves Chilaquiles. Chilaquiles are a chicken and corn dish that has been my favorite at past Epcot International Food & Wine Festivals and I was very excited that it is now a permanent item on the menu at Cantina de San Angel. Both my friend and I ordered the Chilaquiles ($9.59) whichChilaquiles, Guacamole and Congo Juice - Yum! comes with refried black beans and Mexican rice. I also got a guacamole with chips ($5.50) to share between us and a Congo juice ($3.99) to drink. The Chilaquiles was a good portion and was the mushy corn and chicken combination I love. It was topped with a mild red sauce versus the spicy green tomatillo sauce that used to be served with it when it was a Food & Wine item. That makes sense considering most people in line with me would probably not expect a spicy item on the menu. The guacamole was okay but I guess I am getting spoiled with all the tableside guacamole that restaurants are serving these days; I missed the chunks of fresh avocado in this version. The Congo juice is a combination of pineapple, orange and lime juices and was very refreshing.

As we were finishing lunch, I looked over at the Mexico City booth that had been used at the Food & Wine Festival, that just ended two days ago. To my surprise, there were people at the bTaqueria Del Lago menuooth, and they looked like they were getting food! What is this, I thought? Did Epcot leave the Mexico booth open for some reason? We investigated after lunch and I saw a sign outside the booth that declared this as the Taqueria Del Lago. The menu had Taquitos (I was wondering why they had takeNew Quick Serve location at Mexicon those off the menu at the Cantina), Tostadas, adult-size Quesadillas (previously the only Quesadillas on the Cantina menu were the kids' version), Flan, and other items. I asked the Cast Member behind the counter if this was a permanent food location and she said it was (but it still could be a test seeing how well the location does). Of course, the issue is if half of your party wants Chilaquiles or Burritos or a kids meal, and the other half wants Taquitos or Quesadillas, then you will end up waiting in two different lines. Still, I think that will help with the crowd control as the Cantina was very packed and it took a while to get the food. I'll have to return and try some of the items at the Taqueria.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Restaurant Review - Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza, 8031 Turkey Lake Road, Orlando, FL

A slice of Anthony's Coal Fired PizzaRecently opened, in the Whole Foods shopping center at the intersection of Turkey Lake Road and Sand Lake Road, is Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza, a pizza chain started in South Florida. The inside of the restaurant is very open, with walls covered with black & white and color photographs of NY icons, and a few wide-screen TVs.

The menu is limited with just pizzas, a few side orders, grilled wings, and one dessert, NY-style cheesecake naturally, although there Bottled drinks onlyare some other sandwich and salad items available for lunch that are not on the main menu. There is no kids menu but you generally don't need one for a pizza place as everyone can dig into a pie. When the server came to get our drink order, we found out something interesting. Anthony's only serves bottled drinks (there is no soda fountain, although you can get wine by the glass). Since it was just me and my boys, we ordered two sweetened Gold Peak Tea bottles ($2.50), and one Minute Maid Lemonade ($2.50). There are also sodas available and unsweet tea. The Gold Peak teas were 16.9 oz bottles and the Lemonade was 20 oz which allowed for about a glass and a half each. The only problem was telling my kids to make it last as there are no free refills.

Pizza prices are pretty reasonable with a small 12" starting at $11.50 and a large 16" starting at $14.50. Toppings for the small start at $1.50 and for the large at $2.50, but there is a volume discount -- the more toppings, the less per each you pay. Toppings available are Italian sausage, fresh mushrooms, Calamata olives (yep, not just your regular black olives), prosciutto, Long Hot Finger Peppers (um, not exactly sure what these are), anchovies, onions, pepperoni, or sweet peppers. There are also Specialty pizzas for $15.95 for a small and $18.95 for a large. These looked very interesting such as the Meatball & Ricotta, the Frittata (Onion, pepper, and egg), Eggplant Marino, and more. For this visit, we ordered a large with 1/2 cheese and 1/2 mushrooms and olives ($17.00). We also order the Fresh Mozzarella and Tomato Salad to start ($6.25).

Fresh Tomato and Mozzarella SaladOur salad arrived, with four large slices of deep red tomato, topped with thick slices of fresh mozzarella, many strands of basil, olive oil and a bit of balsamic vinegar. In the center was piled a mound of sweet peppers. BB and I each had two of the tomato stacks. The tomatoes were cold and fresh and the mozzarella was creamy, plus there was plenty of basil for each piece. We left the sweet peppers alone as we both aren't fans. Another side dish is the grilled chicken wings. We didn't order it but saw a plate of them pass by. It looked like a huge portion of grilled wings, settled on slices of foccacia bread and them completely covered with grilled onions. That doesn't really appeal to me, but it might to you!

As soon as we were done with the tomatoes, the pizza came out. Our half cheese and half mushroom/olive pizzaAs their motto implies, the pizza at Anthony's was definitely "well-done" which also means that the edges and bottom of the pie can look a bit charred. That was not a good thing for LB who instantly balked at eating the pizza. I had to cajole him into eating it. Of course, he just wanted the cheese. Unfortunately, the cheese had large "holes" of just sauce that he didn't like either. Oh, the curse of a picky eater!

BB and I loved the pizza. It has a sweet sauce that was more pronounced with the plain cheese side. The crust is a bread-like consistency, not doughy at all. The mushrooms were piled on generously although we were a little disappointed with the amount of olives. I know that Kalamata (on the menu they were spelled "Calamata) olives are typically a lot stronger in taste and a bit salty; maybe that is why there was only a sprinkling of finely chopped olives on the pie? Just wish there was more.

Between the three of us, we ate all but slices, which we took home to Hubby. I'll definitely be back, and I'm sure BB will want to come as well. We'll probably have to leave LB at home with Hubby, though.

Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza website: http://www.anthonyscoalfiredpizza.com/index.html

Monday, September 07, 2009

Restaurant Review - Zen, Omni Orlando Resort, 1500 Masters Blvd, ChampionsGate, FL

Zen inside the OmniFor a fun adult night out with friends, Hubby and I like to go to Zen, a Chinese restaurant located inside the Omni Resort at ChampionsGate. What makes this different than other Chinese restaurants, beside its upscale location and decor, is the "Zen Experience." The Zen Experience is an all-you-can-eat extravaganza served from a special menu at Zen. For $46 per person (another reason we don't go with the kids), you basically choose whatever and how much you want of the selected dishes on the menu and the kitchen keeps bringing them out to you. Kind of like tapas or dim sum, but one price for all. There are lots of selections on the menu including soups, appetizers, entrees, and side dishes (desserts are a separate price). For this visit, we dined with another couple.

To start, we ordered a bottle of sake ($27), cold, and three of our party ordered hot jasmine tea while Hubby ordered an iced tea.

I was used to cold sake being served in wine glasses so I was surprised when we were each given the tiny hot sake cups and the whole bottle in a cooler to the side of our table (like you would see done with a bottle of wine). It made it a little difficult to pour more sake into our cups since the bottle is similar in size to a wine bottle. Also, the jasmine tea was served individually as well with each of us getting our own small pot. Zen uses whole leaves for the tea and leaves them in a basket in the tea pots, so here's a tip: jasmine tea leaves have a tendency to turn bitter if left in the water too long. I took my filter of tea leaves out after a few minutes and that stopped my whole pot from turning bitter.

Our server told us that the soups on the menu were served in bowls individually but everything elSake, tea, and a selection of appetizersse was served in a platter for the table. Hubby and my friend ordered the corn Shrimp Toast!chowder, her husband ordered the wonton soup (which, strangely, is not listed on the special menu but we were able to get it), and I had the hot & sour soup. All the soups were good but we were eager to more on to the rest of the menu. We then ordered five (of the eight available) appetizers for our table -- Sesame Shrimp Toast, Salt & Pepper Calamari with spicy mayo, Hunan Dumplings with peanut sauce, Crispy Scallops which were pounded flat into circle shapes and then deep fried, and Sweet Potato Tempura which turned out to be small rectangular pockets of the potatoes. The appetizers arrived with three sauces on the side -- a duck sauce, spicy mayo, and a plum sauce. Our favorite was the shrimp toast which was greasy, but good. It was pounded out shrimp, with a crispy wrapper, covered with sesame seeds, and cut into triangles.

Black Pepper Shrimp and Crispy SpinachFrom the 10 entrees listed, we ordered the Stir Fry Lobster with Ginger Sauce, witStir Fry Lobster with Ginger Sauceh large chunks of lobster in a clear sauce, with lots of green onions; the Stir Fry Beef with onions, tasty and very tender; and Black Pepper Shrimp with fried spinach - the shrimp were too peppery for me but I loved the spinach. The leaves were crispy and almost translucent and the leaves just melted on your tongue. We also ordered the Sweet and Sour Pork with large chunks of pineapples and peppers. Then we ordered side dishes of Vegetable Fried Rice, Szechuan Green Beans which turned out to not be hot at all, and Singapore Noodles which were curry but not too much, with big shrimp mixed in.

After we had polished off all that, we went back and ordered another shrimp toast, the Zen beef -- exceptional, not spicy, full of flavor and tender as well, a side of Sauteed Asparagus which tasted a little smokey, and another Stir Fry Lobster (can you tell that was our favorite entree?).

For deSelection of options of the Zen Experiencessert (not included in the Zen Experience), we chosBanana Zangoese the Banana Zangoes ($8), two tubes of banana cheesecake wrapped in egg roll paper and deep fried, and sitting on chocolate mousse, whipped cream, and a honey-like sweet sauce. Even though we though we were full, we ordered another one so we each got a tube. It was delicious and not as heavy as I thought it would be, though definitely rich.

Our dinner ended up being a three-hour meal but we were also in no rush. All in all, a great evening out.

Zen website: click here

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Like Meal Deals? Orlando Magical Dining Month is Back for September!

The Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau (OOCCVB) have brought back Orlando Magic Dining Month and, with this economy, diners and restaurants really need it. For those of you who have not participated before, restaurants in the area work with the OOCCVB to create three-course (appetizer, entree, and dessert) prix fixe dinners for $20 or $30 in the month of September. This year, there are over 40 restaurants on the $30 list and over 20 on the $20 list. And, these are not obscure restaurants. On the $30 list are Emeril's, Fulton's Crab House, Luma on Park, Morton's The Steakhouse, Norman's, Ocean Prime, The Oceanaire, The Palm, Roy's Hawaiian, and Seasons 52, just to name a few. When else can you get three courses at these restaurants for $30?? Now, these are special menus prepared just for this promotion so don't expect a 4-pound lobster to be part of the deal at The Palm, but you can usually find a good selection of items on the promotional menu. Plus, you can always check out the menu in advance and see if it is something you will be interested in. New this year is being able to make a reservation right on the website via Open Table. I'd recommend making a reservation in advance and when you arrive, let the host or hostess know that you want the special Orlando Magical Dining Month menu. Enjoy - the promotion runs from September 1 - 30, 2009!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Restaurant Review - Redrock Canyon Grill, 9101 International Drive (Pointe Orlando), Orlando, FL

Redrock Canyon Grill at Pointe OrlandoRestaurants are popping up all over at Pointe Orlando, right in the middle of the International Drive tourist district. One of these is Redrock Canyon Grill, on the first level of the complex, where you can eat comfortably whether it is a date night or a day out with the family.

The interior of the restaurant is dark, very dark, even during daytime, which is probably due to the dark concrete floors, dark wood tables and deep brown booths. There are southwestern touches here and there such as cacti and exposed brickwork and a rotisserie spit rotates constantly with golden-hued chickens near the open kitchen.

The menu clearly features comfort food with cornbread, chicken, meatloaf, pot pie, and ribs offerings, and “skins left on” mashed potatoes, green beans, and sweet glazed carrots as side dishes. There are also salads, seafood selections, and combinations platters as well. The lunchtime menu also has a few more sandwiches available than the dinner menu.

Kids' MenuKids’ menu choices range from $5 - $6 and include standbys such as hot dogs and chicken tenders but also rotisserie chicken, ribs, and spicy meatloaf. Yep, it even says "spicy" on the menu. When we asked, the server said there are a few peppers in the meatloaf and sauce and they wanted to warn kids. That's pretty nice. There is also the Mac Daddy Mac & Cheese side dish on the mRotisserie Chickenenu for $4 that can serve as a kids’ meal as well.

I choose the house specialty, the Wood-Fired Rotisserie Chicken ($17.75) with mashed potatoes and glazed carrots on the side. I found out that portions at Redrock Canyon Grill are large when the server placed the plate of half chicken and mound of potatoes and carrots in front of me. The chicken was extremely tender and juicy. The carrots were not too sweet and still had some crispness, which is great because I don’t like mushy carrots.

Grandpa ordered the Meatloaf - the spicy one but it doesn't say so on the Meatloaf with Grilled veggiesadult menu - ($14.00) which comes with two sides, typically red-skin mashed potatoes and green beans. Our server explained that we can substitute any regular side dish so Grandpa ordered the grilled zucchini and squash instead of the green beans. The meatloaf did turn out to be a little spicy. The meatloaf comes with a tomato-based sauce and was also large portion. The grilled veggies were quartered, brushed with olive oil, and lightly cooked, leaving the insides still crisp. They were so good I wished I had chosen that as one of my sides.

Grandma ordered the Grilled Chicken and Avocado Club SandwicGrilled Chicken and Avocado Club Sandwichh ($11.00) with sprouts, bacon, and swiss cheese. The sandwich was rather high which made it difficult to eat like a sandwich so she used a knife and fork instead. While delicious, she wished it had more honey mustard dressing as the flattened chicken breast was a little dry.

Kid's Rib and FriesBB initially wanted the chicken tenders but I cajoled him into ordering something more of a specialty of the house so he ended up ordering the Kids Ribs ($6.00) with fries. They came with a BBQ sauce for dipping. He thought they were a little dry and only ended up eating half because he didn’t like the sauce, so I felt a bit bad about making him change his mind.

LB choose the Hot Dog ($5.00) and then contented himself with Kid's Hot Dogthe coloring and mazes on the Kids' menu. He ate the whole thing, although asked me to cut the hot dog into pieces half way through so he could dunk the bites into catsup.

Chop House SaladOn another visit, I tried the Texas “Chop House” Rotisserie Chicken Salad ($14.00) with black beans, tomatoes, jicama, corn, and shredded cheese with chipotle-bleu dressing. The salad was filled with large, tender pieces of chicken, which were drizzled with a BBQ sauce, and was topped by a sliced half of an avocado. The different tastes and textures combined for a great-tasting salad that was also very filling. And as a bonus, it comes with a slice of cast-iron cooked corn bread!

For dessert, there are family-size temptations for $6.50 including a brownie sundae, bread pudding and pineapple upside-down cake. We tried the Apple Blossom Pastry which is a warm apple pie topped with vanilla ice cream. Everyone dug in and we still couldn’t finish it, although we did try!

Don't forget to your Pointe Orlando parking ticket validated as you pay your bill. Also, don’t miss the bowl of chocolate mint sticks on your way out the door. They look like wrapped toothpicks but they are really yummy candies and are a great finish to a great meal.

Phone: 407-363-3933
Website: http://www.rrcanyongrill.com/

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Restaurant Review - Kafe Kalik, Prime Outlets Mall, 4969 International Drive, Orlando, FL

Kafe Kalik, A Taste of the BahamasWay, way, down at the north end of International Drive is the Prime Outlets Mall, with high end outlet stores galore. Joining this group of retail is now Kafe Kalik, an upscale Bahamian restaurant. The interior is beautiful with florals, bright colors, dark woods, and a sheet of "rain" at the entrance. There's also a Straw Market (gift shop), sushi bar, and gelato counter. I never knew Bahamian cuisine was known for gelato and sushi, but there you have it.

We visited during lunch which looks to be the best bargain as all the prices go up (way up) during dinner time. The menu is huge with a lot of very unique flavors, mostly concentrating on seafood. The "sushi" is actually Caribbean rice rolls and as I far as I could tell, all of the fish items were cooked, not raw. The Junior Junkanoo kids menu stays the same for lunch and dinner and offers a burger, chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese, chicken in the bag, pasta, ribs, cracked conch in the bag, or grouper fingers from $4.95 to $6.95. All kids meals come with a soft drink and most include fries.

On our first visit, we started with the West Indies Curry Crunch rice rolls ($8.00) whicWest Indies Curry Crunch rice rollh is honey coated mahi mahi with tempura flakes, wrapped in rice like a sushi roll. It is served with traditional pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce but also with a tamarind soy dipping sauce and julienned calabaza. The roll was very good as is but I did dip it in the tamarind soy sauce and it was even better.

The server also brought to the table a basket of goodies including johnny Johnny Cakes and Junkanoo chips with dips and butterscakes (like small corn muffins), flatbread slices, plantain chips, and regular tortilla chips. Watch out -- we found out the hard way that some of the johnny cakes come with jalapenos as my 5-year old found out. Accompaniments were guava butter (and you could really taste the guava!), regular butter, and a "pigeon pea relish", a Caribbean-style salsa with tomatoes, beans, and onions. The relish was delicious with all of the items and it went quickly.

Grandpa had had the jerk chicken platter before (which he declared as excellent), so this time he and Grandma shared a Banana Boat combo ($27.00), a choice of three of the Caribbean Rice rolls. They chose the Bump and Grind, Fat Annies Refrigerator Lobster Maki, and Johnny Canoe Crabby Cali (I swear these are the names on the menu for these rolls). The best was the Lobster roll with a sweet sauce, which had lobster, shrimp, crab, avocado, cream cheese, and veggies rolled in rice. The Johnny Canoe was really like a California roll, with a slight Caribbean twist.

BB ordered the Kids Ribs ($6.95) but had helped out a little too much with all the rice rolls so was not really hungry when his large kids plate of ribs came. He got four big, Jr. Junkanoo Ribsmeaty ribs in a guava barbecue sauce. It came with fries that were slightly sweet. GGrouper Fingers platterrandpa helped him finish the ribs and said that the sauce "grew on him". I got the Grouper fingers platter ($11.50) which was very lightly fried and also had a slight sweet taste to the batter. The fish was good and tender but I think I would have liked it to be a bit more crispy. I also got the peas and rice which was good but I was hoping for more taste, maybe more of a coconut flavor. I actually preferred the island cole slaw (the server snuck me a cup of it to try) which was very light and fresh tasting and a good companion to the grouper.

The next visit, it was just me and the kids for lunch. This time I got the soup and sandwich lunch Guava Hog Sliders with Conch Chowdercombo ($9.50) with two Guava Hog BBQ sliders and a cup of the conch chowder. The chowder was a nice size and was slightly spicy wKids Pastaith big chunks of veggies and conch and, well, some sticks and stuff. I know they were probably fresh herbs but I would have preferred to have those large pieces of herbs strained out or removed before serving. The sliders were small but after the soup, it was enough. The guava pulled pork was sweet but not overly so and was tender. LB got the kids cheeseburger ($4.95) and BB got the pasta, with Alfredo sauce ($4.95). Both boys ate pretty well, although we did have to ask for more sauce for the pasta as it was very skimpy. And I was glad that LB didn't want the pasta as it was fettuccine which he doesn't like.

I don't know if it is supposed to be the island way, but the service can be pretty slow at times. The kids ended up watching a video of parades in the Bahamas that kept them entertained so make sure you have something to keep your kids occupied.

Dessert time! We decided on the Mini Trifle Creme Shooter desserts ($2.50) which are a good deal for the price.Chocolate Creme Shooter Basically, it is cake, topped with your chosen flavor of gelato and thCoconut Creme Shooteren topped with whipped cream. Plus, we each got to choose our own flavor of gelato instead of having to choose one to share like with the bigger gelato dessert. There are eleven tropical flavors to choose from including mango, passion fruit, rum raisin, key lime, tangerine, etc. LB chose banana, I chose coconut, and BB ordered the chocolate gelato. I liked how they were all presented slightly differently with rainbow sprinkles or toasted coconut flakes. All were great, but we all decided that the chocolate was the best; it tasted like rich chocolate pudding.

There was still a lot on the menu that I have yet to try, and this time I'm going to order the chocolate gelato as well.

Kafe Kalik website: http://www.kafekalik.com/

Kafe Kalik on Urbanspoon

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