October, 2012

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Old Spanish Sugar Mill

sugar mill

 

 

The Old Spanish Sugar Mill = great times.  I hadn’t even heard of this place till I got here.  Why has no one told me about this place before?!  So since I’m such an awesome person, I’ll tell you about it.  I’m not the biggest fan of breakfast but I can make an exception for today.  It’s a bit of a far drive from Orlando but you’ve got to at least come here once.  It’s about 45 miles/1 hour north of Orlando in DeLand.  DeLand?  Yes, I said DeLand.  Trust me, I don’t roam around those parts very often either.

The Old Spanish Sugar Mill is a quaint restaurant where you make your own pancakes on the griddle.  You also cook your own eggs.  Wait?  So you’re paying to make your own food?!  Yes, but it’s fun!  And not expensive either.  It’s great families or anyone who needs to get away from the city life for a little while.  I recommend making a day event where you come here for breakfast/lunch and spend a few hours at De Leon Springs State Park.

 

As soon as you enter, you feel as if you took a step back in time.  Be forewarned, this place doesn’t have AC.  Luckily there was a nice breeze outside and the restaurant had lots of fans.  I hadn’t been to a place where I made my own pancakes.  This definitely sounds like a fun concept.  The place was packed, understandably since it’s Saturday.  So far, I’m really loving the ambiance.  Even the menu is cute!  All-you-can-eat pancakes, eh?  For $4.95, that’s a good deal.  Uh oh, I think I’m going to have an impending food coma.  On the menu, we have the typical pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage items.  The kitchen staff cooks the meat products and the customer cooks their own pancakes and eggs.  This is a plus for any ovo-vegetarians.  You don’t have to worry about your food touching meat products.  That’s a plus there.  The menu also offers sandwiches, salads, assorted juices and toppings for your pancakes.  My friend ordered a carton of chocolate milk,  and even though it was good, it was 30 grams of sugar!  WOW, that’s one way to get your day started.

 

You get two types of pancake batter.  The typical white batter and a 5 stoneground flour blend.  So, if you have a health nut, give them the other stuff.  I decided to get blueberries as my topping for the pancakes.  I asked my server, Jessica, if the blueberries were fresh.  Well, I’m thinking she meant “freshly frozen” because my blueberries were definitely not fresh.  There’s a difference between the two, just saying.  Also, the menu states they have “real” peanut butter.  As if there is “fake” peanut butter!  I found it quite amusing especially since they don’t even make it themselves.  Don’t bother ordering the peanut butter unless you want unsweetened peanut butter.  (It’s not the best tasting in the world.)  Even despite those factors, I am still enjoying the experience.  I had a great view and just relaxed.  Perhaps relaxed isn’t the right word.  I leisurely made breakfast.

      (Left) Regular Batter (Right) Flour Blend

You get an option of raw honey, syrup and molasses.  Let’s just say molasses wasn’t for me but having more than one option is nice.  The tasty bacon was a nice thick cut, great flavor.  The sausage had that hint of spiciness in it.  All in all, I had a great time here.   After you get all filled up on the food, walk around the park, enjoy the sights and burn some calories!

FYI: this place automatically adds 18% gratuity.

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.planetdeland.com/sugarmill/
The Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill & Griddle House on Urbanspoon

Whiskey Stones

Whiskey Stones

We all get see stuff on TV or on-line and go, “OOOOHHHH, that looks neat…”  I try to not buy gimmicky stuff, but I’m still human.  I saw “whiskey stones” being sold on Groupon.  Do I drink whiskey?  Not really, but do I like cool looking stuff?  Hells yeah. Besides, I love the word “Chillax”.  I use it all the time, “chill” + “relax” = “chillax”  AWWWWWWEESOME.  So, what is this “whiskey stone”?  Well, since you’re asking…. It’s stones used for whiskey.  It’s not rocket surgery, right?  So, whiskey stones usually are made from soapstone or granite.  The ones I purchased are made from granite.  I haven’t used the soapstone kind so I can’t comment much about it.  The whisky stones come in packs of 9.

You need to wash the stones to make sure they are clean. “Wershing my stones!”  I didn’t think I’d ever say that.  Never say never.  So, anywho, dry them and then place them in the freezer for at least 4 hours.  The edges around the stones are smoothed over so it doesn’t scratch your glass.  I read some reviews about the rocks hitting your teeth.  Seriously?  It’s called whiskey stones.  You’re supposed to sip-sip-sip on the whiskey, so they obviously aren’t using the stones for it’s intended use.  I really do like the feel of the stones.  For each drink, you’re supposed to use 3 stones.

 

As long as you aren’t expecting these stones to be just like ice cubes, then you’ll enjoy it.  It lightly chills the alcohol or whatever liquid you choose.  Good buy?  I think so, but that’s because I got it off Groupon.  I really wouldn’t want to pay 20 bucks for some cold rocks.

 

 

So, chillax with some chill rocks…

Cariera’s Cucina Italiana

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Italian food.  What can I say about it?  It’s hearty, warm, carbalicious.  Yes, I know “carbalicious” isn’t a word but go with it.  For any individual who’s trying to go more “Paleo”, Italian food makes it difficult.  Not impossible, just difficult.  With that being said, I’ll have to hold off this diet for a little bit.  So, I got invited to get lunch out in the Lake Nona area for Italian food.  Me personally, I don’t go over that way much but for food?  Hey, “will travel for food!”  So, I get off the 417 and get on Narcoossee Rd.  You’ll find Cariera’s Cucina in the Publix Shopping Center.  I really don’t have any crazy expectations for this place since I know nothing about it.

As soon as I enter, I noticed the halloween decorations.  The staff were quick to seat me, so that’s good.  My server, Dan, introduces himself and I start to look at the menu.  I was pretty surprised at the amount of stuff they had.  Of course you have your traditional dishes, pasta, pizza, appetizers.  They also had quite a bit of sandwiches so, if you aren’t really wanting Italian, you can still find something to eat.

They serve bread with warm marinara on the side, it was pretty decent.  It’s very similar to my “panini all’olio”/Italian olive oil buns.  So far, so good!  Hey, if you make some good bread, that keeps this girl happy!  My friend ordered the Caesar salad.  Meh.  I’m not that impressed.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not horrible or anything of that sort.  It’s just, average.  They really ought to make their own croutons though.  It’s super hard and dried like…boxed croutons.  For an Italian establishment that brings out their own bread, it really wouldn’t take that much effort to use excess bread, add some seasonings, bake it and use it for croutons.  Merely a suggestion.

 

As for my entree, I ordered the small “Italian Chopped Salad Flatbread”.  It caught my eye, something I don’t typically see.  It has grilled chicken, mozzarella, feta, tomatoes, olives, onions, iceberg and romaine lettuce, pepperoncinis, and Italian dressing.  The warm flatbread and cold toppings was a nice balance of flavors and textures.  Definitely a lot of flavors coming through where nothing was overpowering another. What could make this pizza any better?  Nothing.  I was very satisfied with the flatbread.  My server was prompt and courteous.  For a Friday lunch, this place was pretty packed.  Aside from the place being a bit too chilly and the mundane croutons, I would return here.

Cariera's Cucina Italiana on Urbanspoon

http://www.carieraslakenona.com/

 

 

Homemade Potato Chips

Homemade chips
What to do with a sack of potatoes?  I didn’t want to eat mashed potatoes for days so at first I thought I’d make potato bread.  How much potato bread can one person eat?  Then I realized many potato bread recipe used instant mashed potatoes rather than real potatoes.  Interesting.  Well, next idea…. Potato chips!  Ah, I love potato chips.  So addicting!  I could never just eat one chip.  One chips goes to two chips, and then oops, the bag is gone.  Then regret soon follows.  All those extra calories consumed as I stare at my empty bag of chips.  So, how about healthy potato chips?  It’s exists!  And without compromising flavor.
Garlic Salt Microwave Potato Chips 
  1. Peel potatoes (optional). If you have fresher potatoes, then it’d probably be tasty with the skin on. I peeled mines.
  2. Rinse potato.
  3. Use mandoline on the lowest setting, or if you don’t have a mandoline, try to cut the potato slices as thin and evenly as possible. If you want to keep the slices in water to prevent oxidation, remember to dry the potatoes before putting it in the microwave.
  4. Use parchment paper, microwavable plate or the glass tray itself. I sprayed with PAM, then added the seasonings (in this case, garlic salt).                                                                                                      ♦ Instead of PAM, I have seen recipes with olive oil, or no oil at all. If you opt to use no oil, make sure the surface the potato chips are going on are non-stick or else you’ll have a fun time prying the chips off. Also, you can sprinkle the seasonings on top or after the chips are done. From my trials, I have found that placing the seasonings underneath works best.
  5. Place potatoes on the plate/paper/tray. If you have more on there, it will need to cook longer.
  6. It will take 2-8 minutes, and depends on your microwave. Once you see it slightly brown, stop the microwave. Let it cool and enjoy!
So for me, I have a microwave that is 950 watts. I used a microwavable dinner plate, and it took me at 4 minutes 30 seconds for each batch.
The chips were crunchy like kettle cooked chips.  You don’t have to feel as guilty about eating these chips.  On a side note, I was at bed bath and beyond the other day (I love that store!) and they had potato chip makers for the microwave.  I didn’t think it was necessary to buy that but if it works, why not?  Whatever works for you, go for it!

Pho Cali

Tom Yum Soup with Shrimp

Located on Main Street in Sarasota, you’ll find Pho Cali.  There’s nothing remarkable on the outside but as I stepped in, I found the staff to be very friendly.  For a Tuesday afternoon, I was surprised how many guests were there.  I was a bit under the weather and felt like Pho would do me some good.  For those unfamiliar with Pho, it is a large bowl of soup consisting of noodles and you add fresh items on top such as bean sprouts, jalapenos, cilantro and basil.  This is definitely my “go-to soup” when I’m feeling under the weather.

 

The menu is very extensive but unfortunately I didn’t see any banh mi (the Vietnamese sandwiches).  The prices were a bit steeper than I would have imagined but being located in the downtown area, that is expected.  After looking and looking, I decided on two appetizer soups.  I ordered the “tom yum soup with shrimp” and the “Vietnamese beef ball soup”.  For the both of those combined, it would have been the cost of one of the Pho soups anyhow.

 

The soups came out fast and I was ready to chow down!  I tried the Vietnamese beef ball soup first.  Honestly, the broth was okay.  Nothing spectacular.  It actually almost tasted like the broth for wonton soup.  With any soup, you really want the broth to be impactful but subtle.  I found it lacking in that department.  The meatballs were as expected and I was content with the amount.  I am not a novice to Vietnamese food; however, I was unaware that the soup would not have any noodles at all.  This really should be indicated on the menu for patrons.  I was fine with not having noodles because I was wanting more soup than noodles but had I wanted some, I would have been a bit caught off guard.  This soup was just okay for me.

 

The tom young soup with shrimp was by far a better choice.  I really enjoyed the sweet, sour, spicy flavor from this soup.  Again, as a forewarning, this soup did not come with any noodles as well.  The onions were a bit big for the soup but all in all, I would pick this soup over the Vietnamese beef ball soup.  The shrimp were large but slightly overcooked.  It went past the point of no return.  Despite the overcooked shrimp, the soup was very enjoyable.  Between the two soups, I was filled and got my soup fix in the for the day.

 

I would return here to try their other items as they offer pho, bun, rice dishes and boba.  For the price versus quantity, it’s a bit much.  Overall, a decent experience.

http://phocalisarasota.com/

Pho Cali on Urbanspoon

Pastamoré Ristorante and Market

I am going to just start off by saying, I’m not a food snob by any means.  This is not to say, I will ANYTHING.  Some places you would expect a little more caliber and unfortunately, Pastamoré does not deliver.  I went there tonight since I had a hankering for pizza.  I had just left the Red Coconut Club and wanted a little something yummy in my tummy.  Pastamoré is located right on the corner at City Walk, always busy so one would imagine it should be at least average.  The menu seemed promising with a variety of items such as pizza, salad, subs, pasta, cookies and other desserts.  I didn’t even want any desserts but the size of the cookie were HUGE!  No!  Must not give in to dessert, I want my pizza dagnabit!

I went to check out the pizza that was available.  You get only two options, cheese or pepperoni.  Now, it’s about 1 in the morning and some could say, you can’t expect much at this time of the night but still…. It’s pizza!  So, it seemed like a safe bet.  My order was promptly taken then waiting for the food took awhile.  I’m standing there and I see the pizza right in front of my face.  Good thing I wasn’t terribly hungry or else “She-Hulk” was about to come out!  So, I’m wondering if they needed to heat up the pizza…  Why else am I just standing here, staring it?  Eventually, they gave me my pizza.  It looked ok, but it was lukewarm and just not very appetizing.  For $3.29, this may be the worst slice of pepperoni pizza I have ever ate.  I really mean “ever”.  I usually take a picture of any meal prior to eating but this time, I’m just going to show the aftermath.

Yes, I did deface my pizza.   I used my crust to scoop up my cheese and pepperoni, salvaging anything worth eating and left the disgusting dough on my plate.  This tasted like a lunchables pizza that just sat out enough to get to room temperature. How disappointing, le sigh.  Growing up in my family, we never wasted food.  Usually even if it’s not the greatest, I still will eat it for the most part but this time, I just had to let it go.

Surely, the pepperoni pizza would have been better tasting than the cheese!!  Nope.  Would I even dare to say what would be unimaginable?  That this pizza is worst than Chuck-E-Cheese pizza?  Perhaps it is, perhaps.  I did look at some other reviews and it seemed like a hit-or-miss thing.   It seems as if it could be better when the actual restaurant side is open?  I’ll tell you what, I don’t intend on returning to find out.

 

Pastamoré Ristorante and Market on Urbanspoon

Chatham’s Place Restaurant

Chatham's Place outside

If you’re on a quest for a fine dining experience, you surely will not be disappointed with Chatham’s Place.  A bit of a forewarning, this place is a bit hard to find.  I had driven past it before and never noticed but there were plenty of cars in the parking lot for a Thursday evening.  I consider myself to be familiar with a fair amount of restaurants but hadn’t heard of Chatham’s before.  But then again, I’ve only been here for a little over three years.  Chatham’s has been here since 1988, that’s something to take note of considering how many restaurants don’t last long at all.  Walking up to the entrance way, the building itself had a warm presence and I eagerly entered the restaurant.  Let the food journey begin!

 

Immediately after I enter Chatham’s, I’m greeted by Maurice, the maitre’d.  I had a direct view to the kitchen and the performer on the piano.  The music was fitting for the place.  The service here is on point, all the wait staff are professional and attentive. The selection on the menu is not extensive but as I always say, quality over quantity.

Bread stuffed with a feta cheese spread and olives were brought out.  The warm bread had a nice golden crust.  Sometimes the simplest things are the best things.  The feta cheese was tasty and I don’t think I had ever seen olives so big!  So far, we’re off to a great start!

 

 

My friend who accompanied me requested calamari as an appetizer.  Even though the calamari wasn’t on the menu, the chef still made it.  I thought to myself, “What is so special about this calamari here?”  Well, this isn’t your typical fried calamari.  It was tender, in a spicy tomato sauce.  Overall it was pretty good although a bit on the salty side for me.  On a side note, I just noticed the way the sauce ran, it actually looks like a side profile of a female.  Hey, I’m pretty random.  What can I say?

 

 

As we were waiting for our main entrees to come out, we received cheese ravioli flambeed in brandy “compliments of the chef”.  Brandy is amazing, especially when combined with mushrooms.  MMMMmmm, mushrooms, how wonderful you are.

 

 

Then they brought out some passionfruit sorbet.  Another unexpected surprise!  I am loving this place now.  The sorbet was icy, light and delicate.  It was as if I’m eating passionfruit snowflakes  At this point, I’m doing a little happy food dance inside.  I’m already getting full but the main entree hasn’t come yet.  Great company, great times, what more could I really ask for?  Perhaps extra room in my stomach?  I used to be able to eat a lot without any issues but as I get older, I’ve decided that’s probably not the best idea.

 

Ah!  My meal has arrived.  I really had a hard time deciding between the rack of lamb ($39) or the duck breast ($33).  I rarely eat any of the two and when coming to a place like Chatham’s, you ought to go with your heart’s desires.  The duck breast called my name.  The duck looked great!  It was sliced and served on top of a port wine demi-glaze and blueberries.  The last time I had duck breast was during culinary school when I made duck l’orange.  Overall, the texture of the meat was perfect.  As far as the sauce, it was pretty good.  I personally would have liked more of the blueberry flavor to be more pronounced.

 

 

For my side, I selected the sauteed mushroom medley ($9).  The flavors were excellent, with a presence of black pepper noted.

 

 

As for my friend, he ordered the rack of lamb in a rosemary au jus ($39).  With lamb, you can’t have it well done.  Trust me, do not ever order lamb well done.  Not even medium well.  The taste will be off putting and you’ll never order lamb again.  The meat was succulent.  Definitely an excellent choice!

 

 

For his side accompaniment, he selected the mashed potatoes.  Me personally, I don’t really order mashed potatoes because it’s mashed potatoes.  I’m sure you probably had the best mashed potatoes here or there, but in the end, it’s mashed potatoes.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing mashed potatoes.  I’ve had some excellent stuff but when I come to a place like Chatham’s, I’m going to get something I don’t eat all the time.  There were some other selections that popped out.  I saw “haricot verts” and it made me chuckle.  Do you know what they are?  I do but that’s only because of culinary school.  It’s the fancy way of saying “green beans”.  I manage to get sidetracked from food with more food.  The mashed potatoes were a bit firmer but had great flavor.

 

I’ve had so much food at this point, I’m not sure if I can eat any more but I’m sure dessert is great here.  The server mentions pineapple fosters.  Pineapple fosters?!  I haven’t heard of such a thing.  It sounded divine.  Fosters sauce on the bottom, grilled pineapple ring, chocolate cup filled with coconut ice cream.  Around the perimeter we have bananas, apples, and raspberries with a chocolate straw on the side.  The shredded coconut looked nice but as far as consumption goes, it was a bit of an annoyance.  The presentation was beautiful and I didn’t feel too heavy after eating this.

 

You will not leave here hungry, to say the least.  I would definitely return here for any special occasions.  It is pricey yes, but you will get what you pay for.

 
Chatham's Place Restaurant on Urbanspoon

The World’s Healthiest Foods

I’m sure we hear about “superfood” this and “superfood” that.  Sometimes, it can be hard to really know what’s what.  I utilize this one site very often to just educate myself.  All the information on here is very sound.

http://www.whfoods.com/foodstoc.php

 

To a happy and healthy life~!

Dandelion Communitea Cafe

005

 

Ah, Orlando.. “the city beautiful” as they call it.  With such tourist attractions like Disney World and Universal Studios, the dining options are abundant but as I always say, it’s not about the quantity.  I most definitely prefer quality over quantity any day unless I’m super hungry.  Just kidding, maybe.  I have quite a few vegetarian friends and sometimes it’s a bit hard finding a place for them to eat.  Who wants to just order side items as their meal?!  Also, sometimes you may not realize but even sauces are not vegetarian/vegan friendly.  I end up being the bad guy and telling them, “You know… that Caesar dressing has anchovies in it.”  Hey, I’m a good friend and if you’ve chosen not to eat meat then I’d be a bad friend for knowingly letting you devour some meat product.  Right?!  Right.  So, I’ve even met some people who are particular in the fact their food has no interaction with meat whatsoever.  (Such as the oil the food is fried in, or the knife previously touching meat.)  Well luckily at Dandelion Cafe, you won’t have to worry about that.

 

Nestled near the Vietnamese restaurants, we have this quaint place on Thornton Ave.  If you’re coming from I-4 towards Bumby, take a right when you see a big mural on the wall.  (If you’re past Mills, you’ve gone too far.  Make the U-y!)  On the right, you’ll see a bright green house.  Yep, you’re at the right place.  As I walked inside, there’s definitely a warm ambiance.  Along the wall, there’s a bunch of tea and baked goods.  It’s a bit crowded by the register so I grabbed a menu and took a seat to glance over the selections.  There’s seats and couches inside Dandelion as well as outdoor seating for the folks who want to enjoy the Florida weather.

 

This is a great place for anyone who loves tea, vegetarian food, or has celiac disease.  Celiac what?  Celiac disease, that essentially means if you have a gluten intolerance (where you can’t eat oats, wheat, and barley).  Of course this list isn’t all inclusive, but just a guideline.  The menu had a large selection of entrees from soups, appetizers, burritos, and sandwiches.  The sweet potato burrito caught me eye immediately.  MMMM…. sweet potato.. but in a burrito?  Sure, why not.  I use the “why not” philosophy with pretty much everything.  “Why not?” as long as it doesn’t cause bodily injury to myself or is dangerous. This sweet potato burrito seemed pretty safe for me!  For my side item, I ordered the “whirled peas”.  What a cute name!  My burrito had the sweet potatoes, of course, and quinoa.  For those who aren’t familiar with quinoa, it’s pronounced “KEEN-WAH” not quinn-no-ah.  You can thank me now, since you won’t look like an idiot.  Quinoa is amazing nutritious and delicious.  I buy it at Costco for much cheaper than what you’d expect to pay from Whole Foods.  It’s a pseudo-grain that you can cook in a sweet or savory dish, very adaptable.  The burrito worked very well with the mix of sweet potato and quinoa as well as the other ingredients.  You can’t go wrong with blue corn tortilla chips either.

 

I shared my other half of the burrito with one of my friends so I could try the black bean burrito.  Sharing is caring, don’t-cha-know!  Cheesy, black bean goodness with a little kick.  I definitely recommend this one!  This burrito also had quinoa in it.  Between my cups of iced tea, my burrito, chips and whirled peas, I am stuffed!  But not to the point of food coma.  That my friend, is an uncomfortable feeling.  Oy!  No one ever wants to be that full.  So if you’re in the mood for something healthy and filling, go to Dandelion Cafe. Enjoy the art on the wall, make convo with people, and have a fun time!  Even if you aren’t a vegetarian, this is a great place.  Maybe it’ll change your mind.  :)

 

This place also has different events going on, so be sure to check out their website.

http://dandelioncommunitea.com/

http://www.facebook.com/dandelioncommunitea

 

Dandelion Communitea Café on Urbanspoon