Oct 012014
 

Apparently kale has risen to enough fame to claim a national holiday today. No complaints from me though, I’ve always had a love for kale. Spinach, arugula and mixed greens taste boring after countless salads.

One cup of kale has 134 percent of your recommended daily vitamin C dose, so pour yourself a big ‘ole bowl of kale today! That’s probably not the most appetizing use, but Winter Park’s Cocina 214 is serving up a Citrus Kale Salad with house-made citrus dressing. We’d recommend visiting Cocina 214 to try their fabulous 214 Skinny Margarita with Tierras Organic Tequila, fresh lime, agave and OJ. A drink so good, you’ll forget it’s “skinny.” After ordering the Citrus Kale Salad, round out your meal with their Don Carlos gluten free tacos with blackened fish, coastal slaw, thinly sliced avocado and citrus dressing. Three tasty items, zero guilt.

For days when you feel like playing chef, try Cocina 214’s Citrus Kale Salad recipe:

Cocina Citrus Kale Salad

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Go celebrate National Kale Day with Cocina 214, located at 151 Welbourne Avenue East, Winter Park, FL 32789 and cocina214.com.

Photo Credits: Cocina 214

 

Cocina 214 Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Sep 282014
 

Minimal lines, semi-private concerts and an abundance of tasty foods sounds like a Disney dream, but it’s a reality we experienced during last week’s Epcot Food & Wine Late Nights LIVE! After tasting various plates during Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival, we continued our feast during this new late night street party taking place every Thursday during the festival. This weekly party includes food and beverage items from select marketplaces, musical performances, street entertainment and a live techno DJ! For more on the Epcot Food & Wine Festival click here to read our original post.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect for this late night party, but we were thrilled with our evening and the many surprises Disney included throughout the night. Between the two of us we sampled 12 drinks and dishes at marketplaces including Canada, Greece and more! Most exciting was the speciality cocktail drink, a Cranberry Cosmo served in a crazy light-up cup. We had as much fun with these glowing cups as a kid with a Mickey Mouse Ice Cream Bar.

Beyond the food, the streets of Epcot were filled with glowing dancers, stilt walkers, acoustic music and a full band. Disney is the master of catering to adults and kids alike and this event is further proof of their ability to create magic and memories for all ages.

Here’s our top picks for food, drinks and entertainment during the Epcot Food & Wine Festival – Late Nights LIVE! Happening every Thursday during the festival from 9:45 PM to 1:00 AM, $79 per person.

  • Ireland: Kerrygold cheese selection with reserve cheddar, Dubliner with Irish Stout and Skellig. A variety of cheese flavors ranging from mild to semi-strong in flavor.
  • Desserts & Champagne:Möet & Chandon Nectar Impérial, not too sweet, not too tart. And of course it’s always fun to drink champagne during Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival.
  • Hawai’i: The Kālua pork slider with sweet and sour Dole Pineapple chutney and spicy mayonnaise was tasty, moist and a nice mix of flavors. Also notable is the Tuna Poke with seaweed salad and lotus root chips.
  • Canada: “Le Cellier” wild mushroom beef filet mignon with truffle butter sauce. Even better, this dish is gluten free! One bite and you’ll know why this filet makes an appearance every year during the Epcot Food & Wine Festival.
  • Greece: I’ve determined that Greece doesn’t get the attention it deserves because it’s neighbor Canada is hogging the spotlight. We were pleasantly surprised with our Chicken Gyro topped with tzatziki sauce. After grabbing your Canadian flavor, head to Greece for a gyro.
  • Late Nights LIVE Entertainment: Don’t miss the acoustic duo next to Canada, this pair was incredible and spot on with each classic song they sang. Keep an eye out for the glowing street dancers and freakishly tall stilt walkers, both make surprise appearances throughout the night. They may even pull you into their dancing, you’ve been warned! The variety of entertainment was a fantastic addition to our tasty bites and sips.

If you’re looking for the perfect date night or addition to your Epcot Food & Wine Festival experience, head to Late Nights LIVE! for a memorable and tasty evening. Click here to purchase your tickets!

 

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Sep 282014
 

Between the Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts, a handful of new restaurants and Project DTO, Downtown Orlando is undergoing a major (and much needed) transformation. Soco Restaurant in Thorton Park is the newest player to join the downtown revitalization featuring southern contemporary cuisine under Executive Chef Greg Richie.

Soco Restaurant offers southern hospitality in a warm and welcoming environment at the corner of East Central Boulevard. Soco has a full dinner, dessert and wine menu. Hope they add brunch soon, we could all use a new go-to spot for Sunday afternoon meals!

We’re salivating over these menu choices:

  • Hand-Made Canaveral “Shrimp and Grits” Ravioli: Andouille Sausage, Tomatoes and Velouté
  • Lake Meadow Naturals Korean-Style Fried Chicken: Pickled Radishes, Sweet and Spicy Sauce
  • Baked Cheddar Grits with Andouille Crumble
  • Bourbon Banana Pudding: Vanilla Wafer Waffle, Caramelized Banana and Toasted Meringue

Soco Restaurant is located at 629 East Central Boulevard in the Thornton Park District of Downtown Orlando and www.socothorntonpark.com.

© 2013 Cricket's Photography

© 2013 Cricket's Photography

© 2013 Cricket's Photography

 

Photo Credits: Soco Restaurant

Soco Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sep 262014
 

Nabbing a weekend reservation at Rocco’s Tacos is nearly impossible, but after one visit, it’s easy to understand why their tables are full. Imagined by owner Rocco Mangel, this taco and tequila bar brings a Mexican dining experience to life through tequilas, music and tasty tacos.

With over 250 varieties of tequila, guacamole prepared tableside and Molcajetes, this menu has something for every palate. I’m still craving a sangria and their Molcajete Carne, authentic fajitas baked and served in a massive lava rock bowl from Mexico. Served with flour tortillas, lettuce, pico de gallo, cotija cheese (my favorite), guacamole, sour cream, skirt steak, chicken, chorizo, chile rajas and tequila. Phew. This fed us for days after our Rocco’s Tacos visit and is hands down the most unique Mexican dish I’ve ever tasted. The Molcajete Carne is  really unfair to other Mexican entrees because your average steak fajitas just can’t compare to this creation.

If you’re looking for an excuse to dine out on a weekday, their Taco & Tequila Tuesdays features all you-can-eat tacos including chicken, pork, steak, beef, mushroom, shrimp or mahi tacos, each with a handful of fixings, for only $14.95 per person. Top off your tacos with their $5 tequila drinks, $15 margarita pitchers, $3 Mexican beers and $6 Tito’s vodka drinks. Even better, during October, Rocco’s Tacos & Tequila Bar will donate a percentage of their Taco Tuesday sales to breast cancer research via Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Happy Hour never looked so good!

Rocco’s Tacos & Tequila Bar is located at 7468 West Sand Lake Road, Orlando, FL 32819 and roccostacos.com.

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Photo Credits: Carma PR

Rocco's Tacos and Tequila Bar on Urbanspoon

Sep 252014
 

There’s no excuse to eat bad food this weekend, especially when you can head to the luxurious Waldorf Astoria Orlando and Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek for Food & Wine Weekends, now through Nov. 9. These weekends are brimming with amazing culinary creations and good eats. Event highlights include:

  • Global Venture – a Wine Pairing Dinner: 3-course tasting menu comprised of food and wine pairings from around the world – prepared by the chefs of Waldorf Astoria Orlando.
  • Il Cibo Della Vita: From the kitchen of La Luce by Donna Scala at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, each weekend a new tasting menu and wine pairing will be unveiled, featuring chef Scala’s favorite recipes.
  • The Art of Sushi Pairing: Zeta Bar & Sushi Lounge, explore perfect pairings with favorite sushi dishes including sake and wine.
  • Bar du Chocolat and champagne tasting: Peacock Alley will be transformed into a chocolate-lover’s dream, offering a cocoa-infused evening of self-indulgence paired with a selection of fine champagnes.

Really, you can’t go wrong with any of these experiences! Grab your date, best friend or spouse for culinary creativity and a memorable evening. Visit WaldorfAstoriaOrlando.com or call +1 888-353-2009 for reservations and more details.

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Photo Credit: Waldorf Astoria 

Sep 242014
 

For the longest time we avoided The Capital Grille, saving it for boring business dinners or a yearly treat. Lately though, it has been our go-to for celebrations big and small. We’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no better place in town for quality service and consistently good food. We’ve never had a bad meal here and we are always pleasantly surprised by the small service touches and exceptional quality of food. For Spork’s original post on The Capital Grille, click here.

Available in the lounge area, now through November 23, you can choose between three featured American Wagyu beef burgers paired with a glass of Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon or J Pinot Noir for $25. Their signature Wagyu Cheeseburger (served on a toasted brioche roll and topped with Havarti cheese, a sunny-side up egg and crisp onions) is back and they’ve added two new burgers to their lineup. The Kona Crusted Wagyu Burger with shallot mayo and the Wild Mushroom Wagyu Cheeseburger with 15-year aged balsamic, both served with Parmesan Fries.

If you’ve never tasted Wagyu beef, go to The Capital Grille, it’s simply the finest, most delicate beef you’ll ever encounter. The Capital Grille is located on I-Drive and The Mall at Millenia in Orlando.

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Photo Credit: The Capital Grille

The Capital Grille on Urbanspoon

Sep 232014
 

Santa Monica is a land of waves, zero humidity and California culture. With two full days to explore Santa Monica, we did what we do best, eat! Hey, it’s cheaper than shopping, right? In all honesty, I avoided the two story Anthropologie and glittering Tory Burch shop on Rodeo Drive in exchange for fabulous meals. Shoes wear out, but memories from meals last for a lifetime. Here’s a few restaurants and dishes you must try if you’re ever in the area.

  • Coast Beach Cafe & Bar: Might I say there’s nothing better than enjoying a glass of wine overlooking sand and crashing waves? We stumbled upon this hotel restaurant in the midst of our first walk around Santa Monica. The atmosphere was laid back, casual and had a cottage-coastal feel. Almost like you were sitting in an old friend’s beach house catching up on lost time and relishing in the fact that you don’t have to answer emails or clean your house. We enjoyed drinks at the bar, but from what I can tell, the plates from the kitchen looked fantastic!

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  • Misfits: At first glance you can instantly tell the funky, trendy tables are filled with locals and regulars. At 6 p.m. on on Sunday night, the place was bursting with lively diners and full tables. The bar and restaurant reprises a “back to the bar” ideal of comfort food and signature cocktails. We ordered the shredded kale and quinoa salad with sunflower seeds, grapes, preserved lemon, manchego and parmesan. The kale was notable for its flavor as it was soaked overnight in salt water. This process completely removed any bitterness and made for an enjoyable kale salad. Their oven roasted organic chicken was marinated with white wine, garlic, fresno chili and marketgreens. This perfectly-portioned dish was tender, juicy and packed with flavor. Our meal ended with some surprise sea salt chocolate chip cookies from our waiter! We’d recommend Misfits for lunch, dinner, late night and brunch.

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  • Huckleberry: Everything served at Huckleberry is made on site using high quality ingredients ranging from organic flour to farmers-market produce. I was eating solo this morning, but this place is great for groups, dates or a lingering morning with your kindle and cup of coffee. Go for the Fried Egg Sandwich with sunny side up eggs, Niman Ranch bacon, Gruyère, arugula and aioli on country bread. Oh and my side of fruit was exceptional. You really can taste the difference in farmers-market produce straight from California farms.

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  • ShopHouse: Created by Chipotle, their newest concept serves up the bold flavors of Southeast Asia in the same format as their sister restaurant. I’ve heard rumblings that these “Asian Chipotle” restaurants exist and we were ecstatic to find one in Santa Monica. Even better, everything is gluten, wheat and dairy free, so there really is something for everyone. Click here for full menu details and start dreaming of your future ShopHouse bowl.

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  • Le Pain (Beverly Hills): We first found this restaurant in NYC and are delighted to see its expansion. This place puts Panera to shame. Bread is handmade, most ingredients are organic and the interiors are simple, yet stunning. One step inside and you’re transported to the French countryside. My organic frittata with goat’s milk feta cheese, bread and berries was divine! I especially enjoyed the large wood communal table and the attentive (but not overbearing) service.

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  • Sprinkles Cupcakes: I tasted my first Sprinkles cupcake in 2007 in Beverly Hills and I instantly fell in love. I’ve tried my baking hand with the Sprinkles Williams-Sonoma mixes, but there’s always something I’m missing, so I was overjoyed to return to my beloved Sprinkles for a red velvet cupcake. My cupcake was baked to perfection with that perfect “sweet spot” center and topped with the creamiest cream cheese frosting you’ll ever taste. I was blissfully happy after indulging in my all-time favorite cupcake. I only wish they would bring their cupcake ATM to Orlando!

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  • Sugarfina: Finally, a candy store for adults! No more mass candy dispensers crawling with kiddie germs, Sugarfina knows how to do gourmet for grownups. It’s only a matter of time in my opinion before they expand nationwide.This team set out to taste thousands of candies in dozens of countries and the result is a perfectly curated collection of the finest high-quality candies from around the world. If you’re into gummies, try the Bitty Berries, perfectly juicy and no funky aftertaste like some gummies. We’d give the packaging, taste and presentation at Sugarfina a 10+ out of 10!

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  • Seasons 52: This location is notable for it’s incredible ocean view and outdoor seating. We hesitated coming here because we have two locations in Orlando, but we couldn’t have been happier with our meal and exceptional oceanside dining. Most exciting was the cool weather and chance to enjoy their butternut squash soup with shiitake mushrooms and chives. The Maple-Glazed All-Natural Roasted Half Chicken with autumn harvest vegetables and a zesty chicken jus was tender and packed with a subtle citrus flavor. Go for the view and stay for the mini indulgences at Season’s Santa Monica location.

IMG_1538 Although we’re thoroughly missing the zero humidity and endless meals, it’s always nice to return home to The City Beautiful. IMG_1407

Photo Credits: Coast at Shutters, Misfits, Sugarfina, Sprinkles, all other images by Spork.