February, 2013

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Cracker Barrel Hunter’s Creek

Frenchtoastpeaches

It’s Sunday morning and I’m hungry.  As in I need food, NOW!  Hmm…Where to go?  I’m certainly not going to Keke’s.  I may go back one day…in the far distant future.  Well besides the fact that I’ve established where I’m not going to get breakfast, I’m in need of some food in my belly!  Close by, is Cracker Barrel.  Now, I remember my first experience at Cracker Barrel back in August 2004 somewhere in the middle of Alabama.  Boy, have my thoughts on this place changed since then.

Cracker Barrel is a southern food style restaurant with a store in the front.  Rocking chairs everywhere, household gifts inside and nostalgic candy.  If you’ve been to one, it’s pretty much the same thing for all of them.  Not saying that’s a bad thing, at least that ensures consistency.  I’ve always said if  you do something, do it well.  For breakfast, Cracker Barrel hasn’t disappointed me so far.  It was pretty packed inside but my friend and I managed to get seated quickly.  Our server, Sarah was prompt with our order.  I decided to get “Momma’s French Toast Breakfast”.  You can select between various fruit toppings for the French toast or 100% natural syrup.  For those who are into low carb diets, there are low carb options available.  I toyed with the idea of getting a low carb breakfast but nahhh, I’m going for the French toast!  To occupy your time. the table has those wooden peg board games.  Did I mention how nostalgic this place is?

Frenchtoastpeaches2

My food is here! Boy, am I ready!  Four slices of sourdough bread dipped in eggs, topped with peaches and whipped cream.  What’s not to love?  I enjoyed it thoroughly although I do feel 4 slices of french toast is a bit too much to consume.  Especially since I had scrambled eggs with cheese and bacon as well.  Presentation-wise, my eggs didn’t look neat or scrambled really.  More like a haphazard omelet/scrambled egg product.  Hey, it tasted good so I wasn’t going to complain although I did ask for no whipped cream on my French toast.  Oh wells, these are only minor things.  The bacon was right on the money, thick and crispy.  All in all I’m full in a good way, mission accomplished.

Baconeggs

 

After eating, I like to wander around the store and see what interesting products they have.  Candy, clothes, music, random knickknacks, it’s fun to see.   You’ll find this location in front of the Target on OBT and 417.

 

 

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store on Urbanspoon

Taco Bus Tampa

TacoBus

Two words.  Taco Bus.  I’ve heard about it but I hadn’t ever been there.  Well, no better time than now to try it out!  I’m on my way to go see Muse in Tampa and I’m in need of some good food.  It’s number 1 for Cheap Eats for the Urbanspoon Tampa Bay area.  There are quite a few locations in the area but I decided to go to the one in Tampa.  Located on Hillsborough, near 275 it’s in an easily accessible location.  There was ample parking.  To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of food trucks.  Often times, I find that it’s too greasy but I know it isn’t always the case.  I see the bright yellow bus with the menu in front.  Oh man!  The choices, I’m getting pretty excited.  I’m here at the Taco Bus, so I’m definitely going to get some tacos.  They also have burritos, quesadillas, ceviche, desserts and other items.  Ok, step 1. Taco.  Next, the protein.  Man, I want it all!

TacoBus

 

3tacos

A server comes by and informs me that there’s a seating area available.  Awesome, I can sit down and figure this out.  I looked around and there’s an “outdoor” seating area and also an indoor seating area.  I really like this, getting food truck food and having actual places to sit.  I’m looking for any unique items on the menu.  The beef tongue is jumping out at me.  I’m definitely going to have to get that.  The do have a 2 taco deal for $8.99 which includes 2 tacos, rice and refried beans.  Personally, I’d rather forego the rice and beans for another taco, so I’m going to get three tacos instead.  I’m in the mood to get some different meats rather than the traditional carne asada.  Ok, I think I’m finally done.  1. Fish taco 2. Beef tongue taco 3.Cochinita Pibil taco.  I really liked all the colors going on.  Fresh flavor, some pickled veggies, I’m digging it.  The tacos were a double-ply of the corn tortilla but it worked out since it had so many toppings.  I didn’t eat all of the tortillas (I find it a bit much at times) but I was glad to have it though.  The fish taco was fried, white cream sauce was a bit reminiscent of mayo.  (Which I’m not the biggest fan of.)  Next up, the beef tongue.  I’m trying to think of how beef tongue “should” taste.  Not.. quite sure.  I remember the last time I was adventurous with a taco, I wasn’t too pleased since it was pork rind taco.  It was nothing what I had imagined.  This time, I figured it would be meaty-like.  I didn’t think I was ever going to say this statement but…”That is some good beef tongue there!”  I was truly surprised.  Beef tongue?  Who knew what delicious it entailed?  (Too bad it wasn’t an oxtail taco, then the “entailed” comment would have really worked.)  Wow.  Last but not least, I had the cochinita pibil taco.  The menu describes it as “Shredded Pork marinated in Achiote and bitter orange, then wrapped in banana leaves and slow roasted in a smoker  (BASED ON A 5,000 YEAR OLD MAYAN RECIPE!)”  It’s definitely not spicy but flavorful.  I could taste the bitter orange.  All in all, everything was great.

 

2tacodealMy friend ordered the 2 taco deal with carne asada, rice and beans.  For the vegetarians out there, you’ll be glad to know the rice and beans are vegetarian friendly.  The rice was “okay” for me.  It had corn, carrots, and peas in it.  Both the rice and beans were fluffy.  The menu also had some seasonal drinks and also horchata.  Horchata is a sweet drink made from rice, condensed milk, vanilla and cinnamon.  It was very sweet, a little too sweet for my tastebuds.  (Although I must say, this drink is really good with some Crown Royal.)  Three tacos in and I’m done.  Everything looked great and I can’t wait to try more.  They have plenty of vegetarian options that actually sounded delicious.  This location is open 24/7, which gives Taco Bus even more cool points.  I’m a night owl and it’d be great to have something else to eat aside from the typical Denny’s.  I’m sold on this place and I’ll definitely swing on by here next time I’m in Tampa.

 

 

 

 

Taco Bus on Urbanspoon

Lay’s Cheesy Garlic Bread, Chicken & Waffles, Sriracha Chips Review

cheesygarlicchickenwafflessriracha

Three new flavors, only one shall win…. Let the battle begin!!

cheesygarlicchickenwafflessriracha

So, I was watching TV, which I rarely do but I saw three potato chips flavors and it piqued my interest.  I didn’t think much of it because I hadn’t seen any of the snack size ones.  It didn’t make any sense to buy 3 bags of the regular size of this stuff since I didn’t know how the chips would taste.  Lo and behold, I’m in line at Wal-mart and I see the chips.  They looked good.  Well maybe just the Chicken & Waffles and the Sriracha chips.  It only seemed like it’d be a matter of time before the Sriracha chips came out anyhow.  I remember putting sriracha on everything as a child.  Especially fried rice. Yum!

Cheesy Garlic Bread ChipscheesygarlicbreadnutritionFirst up, we have the Cheesy Garlic Bread.  Sounds simple enough but I don’t get why they had to put “bread” on there as a flavor.  It threw me off.  I can understand “Cheesy Garlic Chips” but “Cheesy Garlic Bread Chips”?  Doesn’t sound very enticing to me. Why would I want to eat anything “bread” flavored?  C’mon, it’s…bread.  The flavor itself was indeed cheesy and garlicky, not in an overwhelming way by any means but it works.  Too bad they didn’t have it labeled as CHEESY garlic chips.  Hmm… simply put, this taste like the garlic version of a Cheddar & Sour Cream chips.  For the people who actually care to read nutrition labels, I’ve provided a pic of each one.  You might as well know how bad the chips are for you.  Knowledge is power!

 

 

Chicken and Waffle ChipschickenwafflenutritionlabelNext up is the Chicken & Waffles.  Chicken and….waffles.  Hmm.  Well, I recently did have chicken and waffles as an entree and it was fabulous but how well does it taste as a potato chips flavor?  If you’re into kettle-cooked popcorn then this may be for you.  It’s heavy on the sweetness but the saltiness is definitely there.  Have you ever made a dish too salty and tried to “save” it by adding sweetness to hopefully balance it out?  It’s one of those deals.  As I’m eating it, I’m thinking where’s the chicken?  I absolutely looooooove fried chicken skin.  It’s one of my guilty pleasures but I don’t get that with these chips.  I really don’t think I could eat a full size bag of this.  Sweet, salty, greasiness.  As interesting as it seems, I don’t this will make the cut.

 

 

 

Sriracha ChipssrirachanutritionlabelLast but not least, we have the Sriracha chips.  Not to be biased, but I thought this will be the clear winner.  C’mon, it’s sriracha!  Who doesn’t love sriracha?!  If you haven’t had it before, I would describe it as a spicy ketchup.  The consistency is like ketchup while the flavor is spicy.  Not crazy Thai hot spicy but more of a medium.  For the non-spicy folks, it’s safe to eat it.  I promise.  Sriracha has gained popularity over the past few years and is commonly known as the “rooster sauce” or “cock sauce”.  The color of the chips are more orange than anticipated.  The flavor is more vinegary, sweet, spicy.  I really had high hopes but it didn’t deliver.  It’s sriracha-esque also it has cream cheese, Swiss, and cheddar cheese in it.  How peculiar.  Imagine if you will, a sweet version of salt & vinegar chips.  The spiciness only comes out towards the end.

 

 

Hey, at least I’ve tried all three now.  I honestly think the winner will be the cheesy garlic bread potato chips.  These chips are the most balanced in flavor.  The other chips sound good in theory but as far as execution goes, it didn’t seem to go as well.  I couldn’t even finish the Chicken & Waffles snack size bag or the Sriracha one either.  What do you guys think?  Which one shall win?  I’m curious to see which one actually makes it.

 

Cast your vote on Facebook.

 

 

Atilla’s Steak & Salad

AdanaKabobKofte

In the Mills50 district area, the Asian restaurants are great but what about other cuisines?  Located on Mills Ave, Atilla’s Steak & Salad features sandwiches, salads, steaks, pizza and Turkish cuisine.  I have past it many times but it never stood out to me.  Since it is located close to work, it was a good opportunity to try this restaurant out.  Outdoor seating is available and the dining room itself isn’t very big.  What was big, was the friendly service.  The servers were very pleasant, prompt and helpful with the menu.

The decor inside was very clean looking, a few decorations here and there on the wall but nothing exciting.  The silence in the restaurant was very apparent, some background music would have been appreciated.  As I had mentioned before, there was pizza listed on the menu but only cheese or Mediterranean.  Not much options as far as that goes.  That’s ok, I didn’t come here for the pizza instead I wanted to see how good this “Turkish cuisine” is.  The Adana Kebab and the Kofte stuck out to me.  The Adana Kebab is the spicy meatloaf.  Spicy, they say?  Let’s see about that.  Whichever dish shall I choose?  The options, the options…  Well, luckily they have a mix and match option which definitely works for me!  The spicy meatloaf it is and the kofte (grilled meatballs).  The Turkish entrees come with your choice of a side item (side salad, shepherd salad, eggplant dip salad, spinach dip salad, potato salad, black-eye bean salad, french fries, mashed potato).  That’s quite a bit of side items there.

 

spinachdipEggplantDipThe eggplant dip salad sounded good.  I automatically thought it was going to be baba ganoush.  Baba ganoush is a wonderful eggplant dip dish that had cooked eggplant mashed with olive oil and seasonings.  It’s very similar to hummus but made with eggplant instead.  This eggplant dip salad (Patlican Ezme) was more yogurt based.  It wasn’t bad at all, just definitely not what I expected.  They ought to call it a yogurt dip.  The eggplant flavor didn’t come through as much as I had hoped.  The two little pitas were cute though.  The spinach dip salad (Ispanak Ezme) was yogurt based as well.  At least the spinach flavor was more prevalent.  I definitely could have used more garlic as well.  Both dishes are served cold and I recommend you save some of the dip for the actual entree.

 

AdanaKabobKofteIt didn’t take long before my meal arrived, it smelled amazing!  I’m ready to chow down!  The Kofte (grilled meatballs) typically have herbs and other various seasonings mixed in with the meat.  It was bland for me.  The texture wasn’t overdone but the flavor was lacking.  The spicy meatloaf was actually spicy.  You could see the red pepper flakes in it, and it wasn’t too spicy.  The heat was a good amount that you could feel it but didn’t have the sweating or the runny nose.  I really should have just ordered the Adana Kebab.  The grilled peppers and tomatoes were a tasty addition.  The red onions can be a bit strong for some but if you love onions then you’ll definitely enjoy these. Raw onions with dill, parsley and some other spices added some more textures to the dish.  The bulgur pilav is a pilaf dish similar to couscous/quinoa.  It’s got a little bit of a firm yet fluffy texture.  And beneath all the meat is my pita bread.  Oh yeah, about that…

 

All in all, I enjoyed my meal and left full.  I didn’t even get a chance to order any dessert.  Aside from the bland meatballs, I’ll be back here.  Who knew this little spot would have been so good?  Check this place out and remember to save your dip for the meat.

 
Atilla's Steak & Salad Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Super Bowl Sunday

Super Bowl Rice

It’s Super Bowl Sunday!  Not that I care that much about football.  Of course most people enjoy it for the Super Bowl itself but as for me, I enjoy it for the food.  This is the time to let ones creativity flow!  Although I’m not hosting a party this year, and I probably won’t for many years, I still think it’s awesome to see what people do.  I was invited to a friend’s football party which I thoroughly enjoyed.

 

Super Bowl RiceHow is this not cute?!  It’s a football-shaped dish.  There was seasoned rice, cherry tomatoes, snow peas, masago, seafood, crab, and what tasted like aburaage.  I thought this was very cute and tasty.  Imagine if you will, a deconstructed sushi.  YUM!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fruit saladThen we had some amazing fruit salad.  It had strawberries, kiwi, mandarin oranges, beans and some sort of jelly.  I love the beautiful colors in this.  It was very delicious.

 

Both dishes really integrated the senses, which I love.  I love combining all the senses, the visual aspect, the actual taste, the smell, the texture.  I suppose the audio portion isn’t as big into food as the others but it does have it’s place.  I can’t wait to get back into the kitchen and make some culinary creations of my own!

Guavate Puerto Rican Eatery

Mofongo

It’s Friday night and I’m ready for something new to eat!  A friend suggested Guavate, supposedly the best Puerto Rican restaurant in Orlando.  I admit I was a bit skeptical because that’s subjective.  Recently, I’ve been to a few restaurants where I was simply let down.  Still, I’ll try to be as optimistic as possible!  I hadn’t anything about it before but my friend adamantly stands behind it and since he was raised in Puerto Rico, he ought to know what he’s talking about.

 

Guavate exteriorThe restaurant itself is located on Alafaya Trail, a little bit past Lake Underhill Road.  It’s located in the shopping plaza close to King Tut’s Lounge.  There is outdoor seating available but it’s about to get dark soon so I’ll gladly sit inside instead.  As I enter, I immediately notice the warm colors.  I would describe the decor as simplistic, not too much going busyness going on.  We were immediately seated and our server was friendly.   There are weekday lunch specials which were accordingly priced, but I heard it’s a hit-or-miss thing.  Luckily, I’m here for dinner so I shouldn’t have any problems there!  There was a good variety of items on the menu.  What to choose, what to choose….

 

 

 

bread sangriaAs I’m still looking over the menu, the server brings out some bread.  Nice warm, slightly garlicky bread.  MMMM… bread.  We also got some red sangria.  Now, if you haven’t had sangria, it’s delicious!  Sangria is a wine punch, traditionally red but it does come in a white variety.  With the red sangria, it’ll be a deeper flavor since it’s made with red wine.  Every place makes it differently, so you could have a really strong sangria or a really fruity one.  This time, it was more fruity than I’ve usually had it but I definitely enjoyed it nonetheless.

 

 

Surtido Aperitivos de MariscosThe first dish is up! The Surtido Aperitivos de Mariscos (seafood appetizer platter) consisted of four items with some mayo-ketchup and house hot sauce on the side.  The bacalaitos (codfish fritters), alcapurrias de mariscos (root vegetable fritters), pastelillitos de mariscos (seafood turnovers) , sorullitos de maîz (cornmeal fritters).  The salty codfish fritters look like little firm discs.   The root vegetable fritters were my least favorite items of the evening.  It looked like sausages that really didn’t have a distinctive taste aside from the root vegetables.  I really didn’t even taste the seafood mixture.  Typically, it’s much thicker with more dough and meat inside.  I don’t recommend the alcapurrias de mariscos.  The seafood turnovers were a tasty little treat stuffed with fish inside.  Next up were the cornmeal fritters, soft, sweet and slightly salty.  I enjoyed it with the mayo-ketchup.  For those who enjoy hot sauces, the hot sauce here was quite deceptive.  It’s a light colored sauce but it definitely packs a punch!!

 

MofongoI’m barely done with my appetizers when I notice an enormous plate.  It’s my mofongo!  Oh, it looks delicious.  I’ve had mofongo once before in Tampa and I remembered it was very tasty.  Mofongo is essentially fried green plantains mashed and served with a variety of toppings.  This evening, I had the Camarones al Ajillo (shrimp in garlic sauce).  Seriously, this easily feeds 2 people.  The flavorful was garlicky, my shrimp was cooked perfectly.  It was all around an excellent dish.  I was like a child with excitement when my fork went through the middle of my mofongo, for I found even more shrimp!  AHHHH!!! SHRIMP!!  I definitely was a happy camper.  I think the only thing I wished was that I had more chicharronnes (pork cracklings aka pork rinds).  The little crispy pieces tasted so good with the garlic sauce.  I think I love pork rinds almost as much as bacon.  Almost.  Oh, how I easily get sidetracked when it comes to bacon.  Anyhow, this dish I definitely recommend getting.  But word to the wise, get someone to share this with you, unless you decided to wear your stretchy pants.

 

plato navidenoMy friend ordered the Plato Navideño.  It’s the “Christmas dish” that comes with pigeon peas and rice, roasted pork shoulder and a pastel.  I told you this place has great portions!  The rice was pretty ok, nothing spectacular.  The pork itself was nicely cooked, good flavor.  It definitely tasted like pork (as it should).  When it came to the pastel, well, I don’t how I feel about it.  It had a dough made from assorted vegetables with pieces of stewed meat inside.  It was slightly reminiscent of sweet potato.  Overall, it’s a soft texture with pieces of pork and chickpeas inside.  It was my first experience with this, I wouldn’t say I disliked it nor would I say I enjoyed.  It was different.  Perhaps, something to revisit.  I’ve had food somewhat like it with Filipino food, so, it wasn’t that strange for me.

 

 

 

tembleque

I defnitely want to try dessert so I’ll have to put the main entree aside.  There are seven different dessert items listed, which is a lot compared to most places.  I’ve narrowed it down to three but at this point, I don’t know if I can even finish one.    The Tembleque sounds interesting.  “Coconut jellylike custard.”  Hmm.  I like coconut and I like custard.  Ok, why not?  I don’t think custard is the right description for it.  I would say it’s more of a firm pudding.  If you’ve had Chinese Almond Jello, it’s like that but more.  I did enjoy the coconut flavor and the cinnamon on top was a great addition.

 

 

 

All in all, I’m stuffed!  Everything was really good aside from the alcapurrias de mariscos.  I had great service, great food, and a great time here!

 

 

 

 

Guavate Puerto Rican Eatery & Bistro on Urbanspoon