The Coop: A Southern Affair, Offers Refined Southern Comfort Food [Review]

Chicken Tenders N' Waffles

wpid-20140415_184044.jpg

The Coop: A Southern Affair is the newest fast-casual concept from John Rivers of 4 Rivers Smokehouse. The much anticipated restaurant opened today in Winter Park as planned for lunch service.

Two large, bright dining rooms are filled with large family-style tables. Make new friends and share a table or bring the family down for a home cooked meal that will  keep your kitchen spotless.

Two large, bright dining rooms are filled with large family-style tables. Make new friends and share a table or bring the family down for a home cooked meal that will keep your kitchen spotless.

Upon entering the bright and open main dining room, customers place their orders at the front counter and receive drinks, sides and salad items along with a number. The friendly servers will deliver all of the cooked to order items table-side when ready. The Coop represents southern cooking and charm at it finest. With entrees priced $14.99 and under, including sides, The Coop also offers a great dining value.

The large beverage cooler is stocked with with iced down retro & beloved southern bottled sodas. (Cheerwine was stocked.)

The large beverage cooler is stocked with with iced down retro & beloved southern bottled sodas. (Cheerwine was stocked.)

I had the pleasure of sampling the menu in the weeks prior to opening and I’m happy to report that each item I tasted was delicious. Some menu items are downright, sinfully delicious.

Fried green tomatoes with a tradition cornmeal coating. Seasoned well, a nice nibble to start a meal.

Fried green tomatoes with a tradition cornmeal coating. Seasoned well, a nice nibble to start a meal.

Fried green tomatoes, Pimento cheese or deviled eggs make a great starter and will still leave room for your main and dessert if you share.

Pimento Cheese & Baguette Chips for $4.99 has a nice flavor with or without the bacon topper.

Pimento Cheese & Baguette Chips for $4.99 has a nice flavor with or without the bacon topper.

4 to an order, for $3.99 6 for $5.49 or 12 for $8.99.

4 to an order, for $3.99 6 for $5.49 or 12 for $8.99.

Also under the Nibbles section of the menu, The Coop’s Buffalo wings.  The Buffalo sauce is a southern spin on the classic offering a tangy, sweet heat on the meaty wings. Enjoy with either house-made Blue Cheese or Ranch dressing.

Sweet and spicy sauce is a nice twist to the meaty Buffalo wings. (Order of 6 for $6.99) Ranch or Blue Cheese available.

Sweet and spicy sauce is a nice twist to the meaty Buffalo wings. (Pictured, the small order of 6 for $6.99) Ranch or Blue Cheese available.

After the starters, choose from southern classics of Chicken N’ Dumplings, Smothered Pork Chops, Fried Catfish, Low Country Shrimp & Grits or get ready to tackle some of the best fried chicken offered in Central Florida. The chicken dinners are offered by the piece or you can order for a crowd in the larger family meal or buckets.

Chicken N' Biscuits, with Maple Bourbon Glaze and house pickles.

Chicken N’ Biscuits, with Maple Bourbon Glaze and house pickles.

The fried chicken is juicy and delicious, the savory coating is crunchy and well seasoned. I hope that The Coop plans on selling this perfectly seasoned flour for our use at home. Boneless fried chicken breasts are tender and flavorful; the star of the Chicken N’ Biscuits and Chicken N’ Waffles.

Chicken Tenders N' Waffles

Chicken  N’ Waffles ($9.99)  and Organic Whole Roasted Chicken ($13.99)

I chatted with guests at the next table, who fully enjoyed their shrimp and grits and the substantial chicken and waffles. The Maple Bourbon Glaze will have you licking your fingers, and your plate, clean! So will the pictures and review posted by Veronica at Crave Central on HypeOrlando.com, check it out here.

wpid-20140415_185653.jpg

The New Orleans Po Boy, pictured with Oysters $12.99

I enjoyed the The New Orleans Po Boy with Oysters, a hearty sandwich filled with plump, fried oysters. The Creole mustard sauce is the perfect finish to this sandwich. The New Orleans Po Boy is a available with Shrimp, Catfish or Fried Green Tomato.

The Fried Green Tomato Po Boy, with Fried Green Tomatoes, fried shrimp and oysters.

The Fried Green Tomato Po Boy, with Fried Green Tomatoes, fried shrimp and oysters.

Grilled meatloaf melt -$9.99

Grilled meatloaf melt -$9.99

My guest ordered the Grilled Meatloaf Melt sandwich, a thick slab of Mom’s Meatloaf topped with thick cut bacon, melted cheese, BBQ sauce and served on Texas Toast. The meatloaf was juicy and well seasoned, we’ll be back for the full dinner portion of Mom’s Meatloaf very soon.

wpid-PhotoGrid_1397749841917.jpg

Skillet Cornbread, Mac & 3 Cheese, Fried Okra, Southern Collards, Creamed Corn, Stewed Okra & Tomato

The sides are plentiful and a nice portion to share if you want to try more than one. On the menu you’ll note that “Plenty” is 2 sides and “Generous” is 3 sides and a cornbread. Macaroni and cheese is made with 3 cheeses and you can taste the cheesy goodness in each bite. The buttery crumb topping is a nice accent and I would be happy to enjoy this delicious side for an entree. The Skillet Cornbread is buttery, with a delicate crumb and a hint of sweetness- so good. Fried okra is cut into bite sized pieces and crisp-cooked, not one mushy bite in my serving. Collards are nicely cooked and seasoned, light on the vinegar. The creamed corn is a stand out; the creamy side is filled with plump, sweet corn and not pulverized kernels. Stewed Okra & Tomato packs a savory zing. The rest of the Fixins selections include Smashed Potatoes, French fries, Squash Casserole, Hoppin’ John, Anson Mills Creamy Grits and more. So much more!

Hand pies in seasonal offerings are easy to grab and go, or enjoy after your meal.

Hand pies in seasonal offerings are easy to grab and go, or enjoy after your meal.

Try to save room for dessert, as there are many choices in the Sweetie Pie case. Moon pies, banana pudding, hand pies and mini desserts are all portable and make a nice treat at home if you are too stuffed from dining in. Cinnamon roll bread pudding is a revelation. Read more about the desserts and get John Rivers Banana Pudding recipe over at TasteCookSip on HypeOrlando.com

Moon Pies are available in an assortment of flavors.  3 for $3.99 Pictured: one Peanut butter moon pie.

Moon Pies are available in an assortment of flavors. 3 for $3.99 Pictured: one Peanut butter moon pie.

Pie Shots, in seasonal Blueberry and Mississippi Mud $2.25 each

Pie Shots, in seasonal Blueberry and Mississippi Mud $2.25 each. The Chocolatey Mississippi Mud is rich and satisfying. Practically guilt-free in this petite portion size!

Be sure to request your Coop Troupe card at check out, a free rewards card which entitles you to various goodies as you dine and a surprise on your birthday. Like 4 Rivers, The Coop offers takeout and catering. If you drive by and the grand opening lines are too long, consider getting takeout! Our service inside was very friendly and we saw some familiar faces (staff from 4R Winter Park) who were happy to share some of their personal favorites.

It will take several more visits to figure out our menu favorites, so we relate to guests checking out The Coop for the first time. Check back here for updates, as we continue to taste through the expansive Coop menu.

The Coop on Urbanspoon

Disclosure: I was a guest in connection with media preview tastings. No other form of compensation was received and the opinions in this post are my own. Return visits from grand opening on, were on me. Cheers!

Review: Purple Orchid Cafe Thai Food & Grocery

Purple Orchid Cafe is tucked in a shopping center off near the 417 and Colonial Drive in East Orlando.

Purple Orchid Cafe is tucked in a shopping center off near the 417 and Colonial Drive in East Orlando.

If you are active on Twitter, maybe you’ve seen a few messages bounce back and forth between Ricky from TastyChomps, myself and others on various places around town to grab a bite. After reading more than once about Purple Orchid Cafe, I had to put in on the “to try” list. I’m glad that I did! The small restaurant is pretty spartan in the way of decor, but packs a lot of personality in the kitchen and genuine hospitality from the friendly owner, Nisa Fanou, behind the counter. The menu offers a comprehensive selection of authentic Thai appetizers, salads, fried rice, main dishes and noodles.

When I visit a new restaurant for the first time, I like to order a familiar dish and a specialty dish if I’m with a guest. Why? This helps me gauge their style of cooking and get a baseline for how the kitchen operates. For example, when I ordered Pad Thai and requested it to be medium spicy, Nisa let me know that Purple Orchid cooks their Pad Thai one way and brings a spicy condiment tray to the table for guests to season to taste. We asked about the Pha-Ram and what protein she would recommend; she steered us to the pork or chicken.

The Purple Orchid kitchen has no problem kicking up the heat. Take note on the menu if the dish is spicy and if you are a person who likes spicy foods, ordering here “medium – hot” may be fine for you. “Thai hot” is, well, HOT.

Traditional Pad Thai, slightly  tart with faint head. Palm sugar and Tamarind give this dish its signature flavor.

Traditional Pad Thai, slightly tart with faint head. Palm sugar and Tamarind give this dish its signature flavor.

My guest and I ordered the Pad Thai with Tofu, which had great flavor and was a healthy dinner portion with lots of pan fried tofu chunks throughout. The signature tartness from the tamarind was present and the sauce finished with a faint heat. I added some of the accompanying ground chilies for more kick and found the balance I was looking for to counteract any sweetness. The noodles were cooked well and there was a great sauce-to-noodle ratio. I’d happily order again.

Pha-Ram, pictured with chicken. Guests can choose from chicken, pork or beef and level of spice.

Pha-Ram, pictured with chicken. Guests can choose from pork or beef and level of spicy heat.

We moved on to the Pha-Ram, a peanutty stir fry of the protein of your choice, served over vegetables and with a side of steamed rice. We opted for the chicken, which was all white meat and very tender. The peanut sauce was savory with little heat, as ordered. There was a nice mix of crisp-cooked fresh vegetables under the chicken, nothing was mushy or overdone.

Panang Curry, Tofu. Ordered spicy. Spicy heat was felt throughout this dish.

Panang Curry, Tofu. Ordered spicy. Spicy heat was felt throughout this dish.

We finished with the Panang Curry with Tofu, spicy, another favorite. The coconut milk curry had nice body and finished with great heat. The vegetables were cooked well and there was a filling amount of tofu included. The dish was served with rice, which almost soaked up all of the delicious curry sauce by the end of the meal. Each dish was under $10 as ordered; the prices were very reasonable and a great value for dinner.

There was a steady stream of diners in the small restaurant and take out orders regularly being taken over the phone. Nisa checked on us regularly throughout our meal and when I asked if they had the ground chilies in the small grocery section by the register, she walked me over to where I could pick up a sizable pouch. ($2.00) Again, a very friendly atmosphere that had me feeling like my grandma or aunt was checking in on me- I would not hesitate to eat anything Nisa suggested. I’m already looking forward to my next lunch or dinner visit to Purple Orchid Cafe.

Purple Orchid Café & Thai Food Grocery on Urbanspoon

Midnight Chocolate Cupcakes


wpid-20140404_123718_20140404135907799.jpg

My friend Lauren at In The Spotlight on HypeOrlando.com finished reading the first book in the Divergent series with an intense craving for Chocolate cake. Lauren asked me to share one of my favorite Chocolate Cake recipes in her post here. Because it’s spring and strawberries are in season, I decided to adapt a delicious cupcake recipe to allow for some options. It comes together easily and can be made into a fancy one layer cake or doubled for a more rustic two layer cake.

Chocolate cupcakes can range in taste and texture. I fell in love with these chocolate cupcakes at Midnight Blue, a great downtown Orlando eatery that is no more. Sour cream is the secret weapon; the cake is moist and chocolatey, while being so light and airy. The owner and chef were kind enough to share their recipe with me and I’ve tweaked it over the years. The recipe below makes 12 generous cupcakes or one layer cake.

While complete enough to stand on it’s own, think about adding fresh strawberries or raspberries to balance out the chocolate. The cupcakes are delicious when paired with a sparkling wine. While these cupcakes are a great finish to dinner, they make a wonderful ending to brunch, afternoon tea or a bridal shower.

Midnight Chocolate Cupcakes
Adapted by Lisa Wilk of TasteCookSip.com

Cupcakes
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp instant espresso granules
1/3 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup low fat sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins or cake pan with parchment. In a large bowl, beat brown sugar, sugar, cocoa, oil, eggs, milk and vanilla. In another bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and baking soda. Stir the dry ingredients into the cocoa mixture in batches, alternating with the sour cream, and mix until just combined.

wpid-PhotoGrid_1396637475549.jpg

Sifting ingredients ensures a clump free batter. be sure to scrape down your bowl during mixing so ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.

Pour the mixture in paper lined cupcake tins or 9″ cake pan.  If making cupcakes, bake for 20 minutes or until tester comes out clean. If making cake, bake for 30 minutes or until tester comes out clean. (Recipe should be doubled to make 2 layer cake, as pictured below.)

Chocolate Sour Cream Icing
1 cup low fat sour cream
2 cups confectioners sugar
3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa
3 Tbsp semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a microwavable bowl, heat chocolate on high for about 30 seconds. Stir until smooth. In a mixer, beat south cream, confectioners sugar, cocoa and melted chocolate together until the mixture is smooth. Pour over the top of the cupcake. Chill prior to serving.

wpid-20140404_124357_20140404143639547.jpg

To frost as a cake, you’ve got options!

If you’ve made one layer cake,  place on cake plate and top with the chocolate sour cream icing and then berries. Pour any remaining icing into a decorative dish to serve on the side or use as a dip for fresh berries the next day.

If you’ve made two layer cakes, you’ll need a layer of thicker frosting for the middle. Whip 2 cups of  whipped cream until stiff. (Or place 1 container of non dairy whipped topping in bowl.) Gently fold in 1 cup of  chocolate sour cream icing until fully incorporated. Frost cake layers and pour on remaining chocolate sour cream icing just prior to serving.

For added decoration to cake or cupcakes, melt 1 cup of chocolate chips on the stove-top over low heat, with 3/4 cup of heavy whipping cream, stir constantly until melted. Drizzle the chocolate sauce over the icing.

Store cake in refrigerator prior to serving.

Based on cupcake recipe from Midnight Blue restaurant,  from Vanda Hongsranont and Chef Devon.

Recipe yields 1 9″ layer cake or 12 cupcakes

4 Rivers Smokehouse opens UCF location, The Coop coming soon.

John_Rivers_Headshot_2013

John Rivers opened his sixth 4 Rivers Smokehouse location today at 11764 University Boulevard, Orlando, FL near the UCF campus. Crowds of enthusiastic barbecue fans lined up starting at 6 AM today in anticipation of the lunchtime opening. 

“I am overwhelmed by the number of messages and sheer enthusiasm we’ve received from the East Orlando community,” said Rivers. “I’ve never seen such a high level of responses from a new location announcement, and am very excited about serving our good friends on the East side of town.”

Rivers has been very busy, as he is also planning and promoting the opening of much anticipated The Coop| A Southern Affair in Winter Park. That menu focuses on southern specialties, to include fried chicken, shrimp & grits, meatloaf and chicken & waffles. I’ve had the pleasure of previewing some of the food and it is delicious.

Scott Joseph is hosting his popular Supper Club event at the new 4 Rivers test kitchen this Friday, April 4th and the menu will be selections from The Coop. This event is sold out, however, Scott hosts the Supper Club dinners regularly.  Be sure to join his email list for the first chance at tickets to his next dinner and a first glimpse at what is happening in Orlando restaurants.

4 Rivers East Orlando Restaurant
11764 University Blvd.
Orlando, FL 32817
Smokehouse Hours:
Mon-Thurs: 11am to 8pm
Fri-Sat: 11am to 9pm
Phone: 1-855-368-7748

Coming Soon:
The Coop | A Southern Affair
610 West Morse Blvd.
Winter Park, FL 32789
Phone: 407-THE-COOP

 

Wine, Women & Shoes Event Brings Ladies Together To Help Second Harvest Food Bank

wine women shoes Orlando_webpage_2014-01

On Saturday, April 12, 2014, from 2pm-6pm ladies are invited to the fourth annual Wine Women & Shoes to experience the wine, food and fun while supporting Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. Enjoy this great event at the Ports of Call at SeaWorld, the afternoon will be filled with delicious wine, hors d’oeuvres and shopping, with 100% of the event proceeds being donated to Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.

Thanks to the generous support and sponsorship from many area businesses, every dollar raised at the 4th annual Wine Women & Shoes can be donated to Second Harvest. Through working with Second Harvest over the years, I’ve learned that they can stretch a dollar. For every $1.00 donated, Second Harvest can provide $9.00 in food value to those in need. Incredible.

Peterbrooke Chocolatier of Winter Park is donating a fabulous chocolate Jami Shoo for the live auction.

Peterbrooke Chocolatier of Winter Park is donating a fabulous chocolate Jami Shoo for the live auction! They may look like works of art, but this shoe is completely edible.

Tickets for Wine Women & Shoes are available to purchase online now. Any questions or can be answered by calling Second Harvest at (407) 514-1017 or by emailing Jennifer Landress at Second Harvest.  Cannot wait to find out more details? Visit the Wine Women & Shoes Facebook page for a preview of this years live auction items and any event updates. For more information on Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida please visit their website.

4Th Annual Wine Women & Shoes

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Ports of Call at SeaWorld
7007 Sea World Drive
Orlando, FL 32821

Brunch: Raglan Road Serves Up Authentic Irish Fare & Spirit Year-Round

imageRaglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant is nestled within the Downtown Disney shopping and dining complex. Perhaps you’ve been thinking of fun Irish places to visit for St. Patrick’s Day? Raglan Road’s Mighty Festival St. Patrick’s Week started on March 7th and lasts through today, St. Patrick’s Day. The festival is filled with a variety of Irish bands and performances from Irish dancers- including Ronan McCormack from the original Riverdance cast. Ronan is also teaching Irish dancing classes for those aspiring Irish step dancers.

Dancers from Rollicking Raglan Sunday Brunch

Raglan Road Dancers – Rollicking Raglan Brunch Show every Sunday 12.00pm – 4.00pm

Of course, St. Patrick’s Day is a fun time to visit Raglan Road! But why limit the fun and wonderful Irish cuisine to just March 17th? For those seeking a wonderful Sunday Brunch, a traditional Sunday Dinner or a weeknight escape to a festive atmosphere, Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant should be at the top of your list, year-round. I recently visited Raglan Road for their popular Rollicking Raglan Sunday Brunch along with Sunshine Baker from Crave Local Orlando, who wrote up a nice post here. We sampled several dishes featuring the delicious cuisine of Master Chef Kevin Dundon, Irish TV chef and author of popular cookbooks specializing in Irish cuisine.

Sea Scallops make a scrumptious appetizer.

Sea Scallops make a scrumptious appetizer. Scallop Forrest – Georges Bank Scallops in a golden batter served with citrus lime dipping sauce & sweet chili jam.

If nothing springs to mind when you think “Irish Cuisine”, I’ll help to fill in the blanks with some of the selections we sampled through. To start, Ireland has access to a bounty of wonderful seafood and shellfish, which was prepared beautifully at Raglan Road. The Scallops were tender and perfectly cooked. I couldn’t choose a favorite between the citrus lime dipping sauce and the sweet chili jam, both were flavorful and brought out different flavors in the sweet scallops.

Citrus Salmon - Grilled filet of Atlantic with mixed greens, carrots, orange segments & toasted almonds tossed in a citrus herb vinaigrette.

Citrus Salmon – Grilled filet of Atlantic with mixed greens, carrots, orange segments & toasted almonds tossed in a citrus herb vinaigrette.

The Citrus Salmon salad was a nice balance of bright acidity from the citrus and a bit of smokiness from the grilled salmon. A nice choice for either lunch or dinner.

Pancakes Diaspora - Homemade pancakes with creme fraiche, maple syrup and mixed berry compote.

Pancakes Diaspora – Homemade pancakes with creme fraiche, maple syrup and mixed berry compote.

There are plenty of breakfast and brunch items offered on the Raglan Road Brunch menu. We perused the Traditional Irish Breakfast and Eggs Benedict, but after seeing a stack of The Pancakes Diaspora arrive at an adjoining table, we were swayed. The generous portion was airy and light, but with nice body and a satisfying chew present in the texture. The fluffy cakes stood up to the maple syrup and the berry compote without getting soggy. While this dish had tons of flavor, it was not overly sweet thanks to the addition of the creme fraiche.

Lobster Club - Lobster & avocado salad, crispy prosciutto, watercress & citrus herb mayonnaise

Lobster Club – Lobster & avocado salad, crispy prosciutto, watercress & citrus herb mayonnaise

The Lobster Club had plenty of sweet lobster meat to fill this sandwich and the saltiness of the prosciutto was a nice addition. A choice of sides is available.

The Roast of the Day, with accompaniments.

Sunday Roast with potato roasties, Yorkshire puddings & veggies with a red wine jus.

The Roast of the Day meal is offered during brunch. The hearty portion will fill up even the hungriest of diners and is a nice option for those dining later in the day. The beef was cooked to medium rare, very tender and the red wine au jus was a nice compliment the beef. The traditional Yorkshire pudding was included, the warm popover was tender and perfect for soaking up the au jus.

Also available for parties of 4 or more, is the family style “Host the Roast” meal. Reservations that book the meal by 1:00PM the Friday prior can choose between a choice of Roast Loin of Beef, Roast Pork Loin, Roast Leg of New Zealand Lamb, Roast Lemon Thyme Chicken and sides, for a traditional Irish Sunday dinner experience.

Irish Coffee and Bailey's Milkshake- hot and cold options to end a meal or enjoy at the bar while taking in the entertainment.

Irish Coffee and Bailey’s Shake- hot and cold options to end a meal or enjoy at the bar while taking in the entertainment.

There are many choices for dessert from the kitchen and the bar menu. We started by sampling the Irish Coffee and Bailey’s Shake, both were delicious. I enjoyed the traditional Irish Coffee made with whiskey, a bit of sugar, whipped cream and coffee. For those seeking a sweeter option in our warm Florida climate, the Bailey’s milkshake made with ice cream, Bailey’s Irish Cream and coffee liquor is a decadent and yummy choice.

Irish Bread Pudding

Ger’s Bread & Butter Pudding, an Irish Bread Pudding

We finished with the popular Ger’s Bread & Butter Pudding. The bread pudding was made with brioche bread in a traditional egg custard, with the addition of golden raisins. Because it was made a bit on the drier side, the pudding absorbed and welcomed the addition of the accompanying sauces. The house-made butterscotch sauce and crème anglaise will have you clamoring for every last bite! The dessert portion was easily enough for two people to share after a nice meal.

Ger’s Bread & Butter Pudding with Irish Coffee. The perfect ending to any Irish meal!

Ger’s Bread & Butter Pudding with Irish Coffee. The perfect ending to any Irish meal!

The musicians and dancers are delightful, providing ambient music and rousing numbers that had guests of all ages clapping along. Irish dancers headed into the audience to perform and to invite guests on stage to join in on the fun and even learn a step or two. The floor show is included at no charge, so for the price of a regular meal out- you and your family can enjoy a lingering meal and an entertaining Irish experience.

This dancer's feet are a blur as he leaps, caught in mid-air in this photo.

This dancer’s feet are a blur as he leaps, caught in mid-air in this photo.

The experience of Raglan Road is much more than the wonderful Irish cuisine, it’s the authentic Irish atmosphere and entertainment that guests enjoy throughout the visit. That in mind, plan to sit and stay awhile and remember that Raglan Road celebrates the Irish spirit year-round. Check out their online events calendar for updates and reservations can be made by calling 407-938-0300 or by booking online through Open Table. Sláinte!

wpid-20131124_135318.jpg

Cheers! A great selection of import, craft and domestic beers awaits. Belly up to the bar, imported from Ireland and reassembled in Orlando for the most authentic Irish experience.

Disclosure: I was a guest in connection with a media preview tasting. No other form of compensation was received and the opinions in this post are my own. Cheers!

Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Google+


Top 5 Friday

On my radar this week:

Tasty Chomps Brunches At Cask & Larder

Eat Local Orlando Dines at South+ York

An Tobar Rises Again – Reported by Pulse of Central Florida

Txokos Basque Kitchen at East End Market Celebrates Preview week and Grand Opening

Hello, Lady Crafter. No Glue Guns, Just Craft Beers!

Check out Taste Cook Sip on HypeOrlando.com for new content and posts!

Looking for something to do this weekend?

Friday Night-  Jake’s Beer Dinner at Loews Royal Pacific Resort

Check out the Grand Opening Shenanigans at An Tobar Irish Bar

Saturday through St. Patty’s Day, March 17, 2014 : Get Your Irish On at The Harp and Celt Downtown

Quantum Leap Gives Back With Release Of Panther’s Tale Red Wine

Quantum Leap Winery is located near downtown Orlando where the Virginia Mills district meets the Ivanhoe Village area. The spacious tasting room is open for enjoying a glass of wine or purchasing a bottle or a few, on Thursday & Friday from 2 pm – 7 pm and on Saturdays from 12 pm – 6 pm.

Large-scale art dominates the large space, giving the Quantum Leap Wintery tasting room a contemporary vibe.

Large scale art dominates the large space, giving the tasting room a contemporary vibe.

The local winery is releasing a new red blend called Panther’s Tale later this month. The wine was named after the honorary winery cat, Panther, who has a happy home thanks to the Quantum Leap Winery owners and staff. I had a chance to chat with Quantum Leap co-owner, Jill Ramsier, about Panther’s Tale while we tasted the wine. Panther’s Tale is a combination of Merlot and Corvina; both varietals are from the Venito region in north-eastern Italy. The wine is bright and medium-bodied, with cassis and red fruits apparent on first sip.

Panther's Tale, a red blend made of of Italian grapes, makes its pre-release debut at Quantum Leap's 3/12/2014 Wine & Chocolate Perfectly Paired class.

Panther’s Tale, a red blend of Italian grapes makes its pre-release debut at Quantum Leap’s 3/12/2014 Wine & Chocolate Perfectly Paired class.

The lively wine would pair nicely with Manchego, Ricotta Salata, figs, olives, salami or any nice charcuterie. Like the popular Kaley’s Rescue Red, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Pather’s Tale will be donated to the SPCA of Central Florida. Panther’s Tale is making its debut at the Wednesday, March 12th Wine and Chocolate Perfectly Paired class where it will be paired with a very popular chocolate item from Peterbrooke Chocolatier of Winter Park.

Peterbrooke Chocolatier of Winter Park confections from the February Wine and Chocolate Perfectly Paired class

Peterbrooke Chocolatier of Winter Park confections from the February Wine and Chocolate Perfectly Paired class.

This is the second time Quantum Leap has offered the Wine and Chocolate class to the public, the first class in February sold out. Karen Peterson’s blog Read Run Write with Kahrenheit walks you through pairings from the February Wine and Chocolate Perfectly Paired class and Marilyn Torres at Forkful has a great post and more lovely pics to tempt you from her January visit to Quantum Leap. The Femme du Frommage also hosts a popular Wine and Cheese Perfectly Paired class series at the winery and at the East End Market.

Along with great wines and fun classes, Quantum Leap Winery hosts numerous special events throughout the year and is available for private events. Check the online calendar for current events and be sure to join the Quantum Leap Winery E-list for more information or to schedule a tour. Cheers!

Quantum Leap Winery and Tasting Room on Urbanspoon

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Txokos Basque Kitchen At East End Market Warms Up With Preview Dinners. Updated: Grand Opening Tuesday, March 11, 2014!

If you are a savvy diner, you are on the email list for area restaurants about to open. E-list members of the much anticipated Txokos Basque Kitchen at the East End Market received a surprise in their email in box this week, invitations to a week long preview. Last month, there was the sold out Spanish Wine Experience and throughout December and January Txokos (Pronounced Chō-kos) held series of  intimate “Test Kitchen” dinners. Didn’t know about any or all of these great events? Word to the wise, join the Txokos email list before you miss out on any future happenings.

Join Txokos emails list for future news, features and special events.

Join Txokos email list at http://txokoskitchen.com for future news, features and special events.

Chef Henry & Michele Salgado have a loyal area following from their Spanish River Grill Bistro Latino located in New Smyrna Beach. Chef Henry is also a 2012 & 2014 James Beard Award Semifinalist nominee for Spanish River Grill, so when the Txokos preview emails went out the available reservations went quickly. Very quickly.

The wood burning Asador grill dominates the enclosed patio area.

The wood burning Asador grill dominates the enclosed patio area. Tables fill the space or diners can choose the bar by the grill or the kitchen for ringside seats.

The Txokos menu is dominated by meats and Basque specialties that are showcased on the wood-burning Asador grill. The large grill allows for the cooking surface to be raised and lowered, to control the level of cooking heat. Large oak logs burn at the back of the grill while the smoldering coals are moved to the front allowing steaks, chicken and delicate seafood to be evenly cooked. After my first visit, which was filled with attentive and friendly service, wonderful food and a great atmosphere- I’m very happy to put Txokos Basque Kitchen on my list of places to check back often.

The Txokos menu offers plenty of options for a visit filled with small plates and wine, as well as the option of a full meal followed by a decadent dessert. Neither my friend or myself speak Spanish, but found the menu very approachable with some guidance provided by our helpful server. In addition to small plates, starters, salads, entrees and desserts, there is a comprehensive wine list with Spanish wines available by the glass and by the bottle. Also available from the bar is a nice selection of Spanish beers and creative cocktails.

Basque Olives make a great starter!

Basque Olives make a great starter!

I started with a glass of Garnacha (Grenache), a red wine grape that is fruity and full bodied. My friend opted for the Txakolina K5 Bodega, a white wine made from Hondarribi Zuri, the indigenous grape to Basque country. The wine was crisp, with nice body and acidity. Both wines paired beautifully with our starters, the Queso plate and an order of the Basque Olives. The briny olives were a nice portion for two enthusiastic olive eaters or four polite diners.

wpid-20140305_183819.jpg

San Simon & Valdeón cheese drizzled with truffle honey. House-made fig bread, which was wonderful with both cheeses.

The Queso featured San Simon & Valdeón cheeses drizzled with truffle honey and plated with a house-made fig bread (or Pan de Higo). We requested bread and were each served a Panecillo Tetiña, a traditional rustic roll that Chef Henry and Olde Hearth Bread Company have recreated and developed in lieu of shipping the specialty bread in from Spain. There was not a crumb of cheese or drizzle of the delicious truffle honey left between us. The fig bread was a wonderful accompaniment to the cheese, the spreadable fig balancing out the creamy and flavorful cheeses. The cheeses paired nicely with both the red and the white wines, my friend ordered another glass of the K5 to enjoy with dinner and I moved to the Rosado (rosé) offered, a delightfully effervescent wine which had less bubbles than champagne or Cava and was a perfect accompaniment to our fish entree.

Pescado "Xixario", wood grilled whole fish with garlic chips, dried pepper and charred garden vegetables. Also pictured, side orders of Saffron risotto and Porcini salted fries.

Pescado “Xixario”, wood grilled whole fish with garlic chips, dried pepper and charred garden vegetables. Also pictured, side orders of Saffron risotto and Porcini salted fries.

The Pescado “Xixario” on our visit was a whole Snapper; the fish was delicate, of supreme quality and perfectly cooked. The spine was removed, leaving two beautiful fillets. Since we had enjoyed starters, this was a nice option to share with the addition of two sides. As is the nature with Snapper, the pin bones remained after the spine was removed; be sure to enjoy with good friends!

Salted Chocolate Chip Mousse

Salted Chocolate Chip mousse with Maldon Sea Salt flakes, a drizzle of Spanish Olive oil and accompanied by espresso pecan shortbread.

We saved room for dessert and I suggest that you do as well. Of the three options we were tempted but the Olive oil cake, but chocolate won out. The Salted Chocolate Chip mousse was spectacular. The Maldon Sea Salt flakes provided a nice contrast to the velvety mousse and the drizzle of Spanish Olive oil was slightly peppery. The small chips of semi sweet chocolate melted in our mouths, impressive with a chilled dessert. My friend and I could both commented that we would have happily eaten several more of the delicious Espresso Pecan shortbread.

I’m happy to share that the official Txokos Basque Kitchen grand opening is this Saturday, March 8, 2014. Updated: Management was disappointed to inform me via email that after their busy preview week, they’ve had to postpone the grand opening until Tuesday, March 11, 2014 for dinner. Reservations for parties of 6 or more can be made by calling (321) 972-8852, parties under 6 guests will be put on wait list to cut down on their waiting time once they arrive.

Look for Happy Hour to start at Txokos in the weeks to come, offered weekdays 4-6pm with half price glasses of wine, beer and select cocktails as well as $1, $2 and $3 Pintxos (or small bit appetizers). Brunch will also be starting in a few weeks, with $2 Bloody Mary’s and $1 mimosa’s) Lastly, lunch will be phased in- making Txokos Basque Kitchen a must visit spot for any time of the week.

Txokos Basque Kitchen on Urbanspoon

“Couples for Kids” Progressive Dinner At Pointe Orlando On March 8, 2014

“Couples for Kids” is a progressive evening throughout some of Pointe Orlando’s most popular venues. The evening raises awareness and also benefits Kauses4Kids, a charity that benefits local underprivileged youth in the Central Florida area.

The evening starts with select appetizers and a Van Gogh Vodka cocktail at Copper Canyon Grill, followed by dinner and a paired Van Gogh cocktail at Marlow’s Tavern Orlando. The party continues, with admission to BB King’s Blues Club for live entertainment and an after dinner Van Gogh cocktail. Tickets are $60 per couple or $40 per individual ticket.

Couples for Kids March 8 2014Tickets may be purchased online here. After you register online, please contact Marlow’s Tavern at Pointe Orlando by calling 407-351-3627 to confirm your selected dinner reservation time: 7:30p or 8:30p.  For additional event information, please contact Michael Mataluni at Marlow’s Tavern at 407-351-3627.

Pointe Orlando
9101 International Dr.
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 370-3700