March, 2013

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Willy’s Mexicana Grill Gainesville

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Willy’s Mexicana Grill is located on Archer Road among all the other restaurants.  I really didn’t have a craving for anything in particular but I was in the mood to try a new place.  It’s set up like Moe’s or Chipotle where the employees make the meal in front of you.  To the left, there’s the big menu board.  For the vegetarians out there, they have tofu and of course, lots of fresh veggies.WillysMexicanaGrillInterior

I selected the burrito bowl for my meal.  One time, I made the mistake of eating a whole humongous burrito one time and suffered a horrible tummy ache.  No more, I say, no more!  Sorry, horrible flashback.  My burrito bowl consisted of the rice, black beans, cilantro-garlic steak, salsa, cilantro, cheese, lettuce, black olives, tomatillo sauce, and corn salsa.  Chips come on the side.

 

WillysMexicanaGrillBurritoBowlMy verdict: “ehh.”  The food is definitely fresh but it seemed like it was lacking.  I needed some extra OOMPH.  My “cilantro-garlic steak” wasn’t that flavorful, quite a shame really since it sounded tasty.   I even went up to the salsa bar and tried to pizzazz my burrito bowl with different sauces.  The chips were good, very thin and crispy.  You’ll get a generous portion but for the flavor, I’d go elsewhere.  Service was good, food could be better.WillysMexicanaGrillBurritoBowlSideView

 

 

 

http://www.willys.com/index.php

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Dolce Bakery & Cafe Kissimmee

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DolceExteriorDolceMainDisplayI’ll be honest, I live in Kissimmee but when people ask what’s good to eat here, I usually reply “Nothing really.”  Not until I found Dolce Bakery & Cafe.  I can’t believe it’s been here 4 years and I’ve never noticed it!  It’s on Osceola Parkway near Old Dixie Highway.  It was a hidden for me, but fear not, the Feisty Foodist finds her way.

DolceInteriorI go inside and instantly, the display of pastries welcomes me.  OOOOOHHH….  It’s very bright in here.  Am I in Miami?  Modern decor, the amazing aroma of fresh coffee.  I’m looking at all the baked goods, everything looks great.   You know that kid in the candy store?  Yep, that’s how I’m feeling right now.  So many choices!  The staff is very friendly here and quite helpful as well.  My friend and I decide to each pick an item.  I’ve got to get some café con leche too.

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My fresh fruit berry tart was AH-MAY-ZING!  What would I have done to make it better?  Nothing.  The crème pâtissière (pastry cream) was perfect and the pâte sucrée (sweet tart dough) was a beautiful golden color.  In general, I typically don’t eat all of the crust/dough (usually because it’s overbaked/too dry/bleh) but this tart was done just right.  The café con leche was good as well.  The guava and cheese pastry was tasty but not the best one I’ve ever had.  Still really enjoyable though.  I’m stuffed from lunch earlier or else I would have ordered more items!

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Overall, this a great spot!  Indoor and outdoor seating is available.  For those not into sweets, there are other menu items such as salads, sandwiches and breakfast items.

 

http://www.dolce-usa.com/

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Michelle’s Homemade Golden Sana Banana Chips

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Banana chips. So many kinds, so many flavors? Let me tell you, Michelle’s Homemade Golden Sana Banana Chips are DELICIOUS! Golden, sweet, crunchy, and just plain amazing. Amazon does sell these chips but it’d be worth it to check out at your local Asian grocery store. Everyone that has tasted these chips so far absolutely love it. These banana chips are not different in their taste but also by the way they’re sliced. It’s more like long banana chips so you have various size of pieces yet the flavor and thickness remains consistent.

MichellesHomemadeGoldenSananBananaChipsNutritionLabel7 grams of dietary fiber never tasted so sweet. And no preservatives? Yes, please! These Phillipino snacks are a new favorite for me!

 

Hot Krust Panini Kitchen

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HotKrustExteriorI walked into Hot Krust Panini Kitchen not knowing anything about it and left loving it.  Recently, I had an opportunity to attend an event where I got to sample many of the food items.  I meet the owner Evan Dimov and he’s so genuinely nice and super passionate about this place!  Everything is fresh, no processed meats, the meats are actually roasted in house and they don’t even have a deep fryer.  I did have a little difficulty locating this place.  It’s somewhat hidden from the main road of Turkey Lake but it’s next to Barnie’s right by the Whole Foods.  I really came in here with no expectations aside from knowing that they offered sandwiches.  As I entered inside, I get a sense of a simple, clean, and open atmosphere.  The menu is on a screen above the registers.  It’s definitely got this “new” appeal in here.  By the soda fountain, there are Fat Cat hot sauces which are locally based.  The Purry-purry sauce was my favorite, garlicky flavor with a medium level of heat.

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I had the cactus chili first.  It was hearty but not the typical dense chili I was accustomed to.  The menu description lists: “Savory cactus, ground beef, diced tomatoes, onions, corn, northern beans & spinach in a spicy broth.”  Spicy broth?  Well, it wasn’t THAT spicy which is fine since some people’s heat tolerance can be quite low.  The cactus chili wasn’t just a name, it actually had cactus in it.  That was a first for me but no complaints on my end.  Next, I tried the waffle fries.  Hot Krust offers three types of waffle fries where are regular, spicy and sweet potato.  These fries are actually baked so I didn’t feel as guilty about eating them.

Then I see the Burgernini “HK Monster”.  Wow, what is this?  I took a bite and wanted more!  The  100% Angus beef burger patty was cooked perfectly.   Wait, am I eating fries in it too?  Yep but it works especially with the BBQ-honey mustard sauce.  I can’t say that I’ve ever heard of a burgernini before but whatever this is, it’s just great.  The actual size of this sandwich is an 8 ounce burger on a huge bun.  The Cowboy Jack was my second favorite sandwich.  It has steak, horseradish peppercorn, black olives, tomatoes, spinach, red onions and Monterrey Jack cheese.  Fear not, the horseradish peppercorn is mild.  It does sound a bit intense but the sandwich is seriously fantastic.

The Florentine chicken panini had roasted chicken, sundried tomatoes,  havarti cheese, spinach,  lite mayo & pesto sauce.  It was really good.  And I mean, really good.  The Buffalo Bill Chicken (chicken, buffalo sauce, onions, jalapeno peppers, lettuce, provolone cheese and blue cheese crumbles) was a bit strong on the blue cheese flavor.  A little blue cheese definitely goes a long way and in this instance it managed to overpower the other ingredients.

My vegetarian friends, I can assure you the veggie sandwiches here are great.  The Alibaba Veggie (hummus, fresh mozzarella, red onions, lettuce and tomatoes) was good but Veggie Vacation (freshly roasted portobello mushroom, Swiss cheese, bell pepper, pesto, spinach, red onions and tomatoes) was even better.  They definitely don’t skimp out on the toppings here.

The Sangria Shrimp was “different”.  It has grilled shrimp glazed with sangria vinaigrette, pesto, red roasted pepper, spinach and provolone cheese.  I’m sure there’ll be fans of this one but it was a tad too sweet for me.  I do appreciate the originality of this sandwich.  If they have any chocolate chip cookies, go for it.  MMMM cookies…..  My only gripe would be that I wish the chicken wings were a bit more crisp aside from that, everything really was enjoyable.

I’ve tried enough sandwiches here that I bet everybody will find something they’ll like.  The price of the food is definitely reasonable considering the quality of the food here.

 

This place may be small but the flavor certainly isn’t!

www.hotkrust.com

HOURS:
Mon-Sat: 8am-8pm
Closed on Sundays

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Greens & Grille Millenia

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So I finally stopped in to see what Greens & Grille was about.  Why has it taken me so long?!  Well, let’s see…Whenever I drive past this place, it looks closed.  That dark tint threw me off and then the restaurant didn’t really stand out to me.  The sign looked gimmicky or perhaps TOO healthy.  I don’t know, there was just something that never made me stop in to eat there.  Also, I didn’t know anyone else who had ate there before.  Finally someone I knew ate there and just raved about it.  Well, you don’t have to twist my arm to get me to eat food!  Maybe bone marrow.  Maybe.  As soon as I walked in, I see the menu on the wall to the left.  It’s got nice, vibrant colors in here.  As soon you walk up to the counter, the employee takes your order.  It’s not till the end of the line where you pay for your meal.  In between the trip from the ordering station to the register you’ll pass the salad station and then the grill station.

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I was a little overwhelmed at first.  It seems so simple, salad or sandwich but the choices were abundant.  If you weren’t feeling either option then you could also order some grilled items.  I selected the “steak house salad”.  The menu description reads: ‘Mixed greens, candied almonds, sliced egg, cranberries, grilled onions, bleu cheese with aged sherry thyme dressing served with flank steak.’  There’s always a moment of ‘will the description match the dish’ and in this instance, it really did.  I thoroughly enjoyed my salad.  The portion was generous, the flavors were great!  I kept eating more than I should have but it was just so good!  Even the candied almonds were amazing.  Instead of just roasting whole almonds or roasted pieces, they used sliced almonds.  The great part about this was the fact that it was candied all together so there was a layering effect and then broken into pieces.  Thus more flavor achieved and easier chewing.  My flank steak was very tender and flavorful.  I tried some of the baked mac and cheese, pretty tasty as well.GreensGrilleSteakHouse

I like how Greens & Grille uses half sheet trays as trays for the customer.  How resourceful!  The employees were quick and attentive. My only quip would be that the outdoor seating was so crowded. I thoroughly enjoyed this place and will definitely return for more!

http://www.greensandgrille.com/index.shtml

HOURS:
Mon-Sat: 11am-9pm
Sun: 11am-8pm

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Sharkey’s Beer & Wine Miami

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SharkeysBarLocated in downtown Miami, off of Biscayne Blvd we have Sharkey’s Beer & Wine.  I stumbled upon this “dive bar” while walking around Bayside Marketplace.  This was my first time here, nice outdoor mall setting with a great outdoor view.  I was more hungry than thirsty but the large display of bottled beers caught my eye.  And they have food?  Hmmm. Well, the prices are very reasonable here.  Most bottles are about 5 dollars or more.  I’m definitely not a big beer drinker but the Wild Blue Lager was pretty tasty!  I also drank some the Venezuelan Polar Beer, Vanilla Porter, and Franziskaner Weissbier.

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The service was mediocre.  Not horribly but certainly nothing to speak about.  I asked one of the bartenders what are the best food items on the menu.  Not surprisingly, she recommends the two most expensive items which were the Alligator Tidbits and the seafood platter.  It really felt like she was upselling me here.  It is bar food so it wasn’t THAT expensive.  Well, it’s been ages since I’ve had gator meat so I went for it.  What it taste like?  Exactly how I remembered it.  If you haven’t had gator meat before, I would describe it as the texture of pork, the dominant flavor of chicken with a hint of fish. Perhaps not the most appetizing description but it’s accurate.  The menu description reads: “The Sharkey’s all-time favorite! Lightly dusted, farm raised gator meat tenders, with a little kick. Served with cocktail sauce.”  Last time I checked, buffalo sauce isn’t cocktail sauce but with the addition of ketchup, I made it work.  I ate my bucket of gator meat and towards the end, I’m pretty much gator-ed out.  After drinking three beers and a half-bucket of gator meat, I don’t think ordering more food would be ideal.  Even though it wasn’t super delicious or anything, it’s something to try,  These gator meat tenders were pretty decent sized.

 

I loved the large selection of beer and the view was great. Great location, good prices, okay service,  okay food.  Definitely a cool little spot to come back to.
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Golden Lotus Chinese Restaurant

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I like dim sum a lot.  Scratch that.  I absolutely love dim sum.  If you haven’t ever had dim sum, then you’re missing out on some amazing stuff.  First off, what is dim sum?  Imagine if you will, Chinese food but tapas style.  Most items are steamed or fried and you don’t eat it with rice.  Dim sum literally means touching the heart.  My family and I would have dim sum and drink tea (yum cha) on Sundays.  The dim sum lady would push her cart and I anxiously looked to see what items would be in the steamed baskets.  I’ve had periods of time where the areas I lived in didn’t have any dim sum at all.  I was one sad girl.  Luckily, in Orlando we do have a few restaurants serve dim sum even during the week.

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GoldenLotusInteriorWhenever I have family and/or friends in town, I take them to Golden Lotus.  It really isn’t much to look at on the outside since it’s in a shopping center between John Young Parkway and Sand Lake Road.  The interior isn’t much to look at either.  There’s a large fish tank facing you right when you walk in.  To the right, you’ll usually see one of the servers.  The dining area is medium sized and it gets packed on the weekends.  The placemats are the disposable one with zodiac animals on them.  A bit tacky but it’s still nostaglic for me.

ChrysanthemumTeaGoldenLotusDimSumMenuWhenever I get dim sum, I order chrysanthemum tea.  It’s light, floral and quite good for you.  It does not contain any tea leaves and it’s literally dried flowers.  Upon request, they’ll give you rock sugar.  They have varieties of teas available as well.  When you tell the server you’re going to order dim sum, they’ll give you a menu for you to select items.  It’s à la carte style, similar to selecting sushi and if you have no clue what you’re ordering then they also pictures.  They don’t have a dim sum cart at this restaurant, which I’m fine with because I know what I want.  As far as pricing goes, it’s relatively inexpensive and good quality as compared to some other establishments in Orlando.

 

 

 

ShrimpRicePasteFriedTaroDumplingThe food is brought out when it’s done rather than all at once.  Although sometimes everything seems to just come out all at once.  One of my favorite dim sum items is the shrimp rice paste.  As a warning, for those who do not have good chopsticks skills, they will certainly have difficulty eating this.  It’s like steamed sheets of a “dough” that have various fillings in the middle (in this case, shrimp), which is then folded and served with a sweet soy sauce.  It will be slippery.  Next up was the fried taro dumpling, it does look strange.  Some fried brown hairy mass.  I assure you, it’s delicious.  Inside it has taro and ground meat.  Taro is a root vegetable used in a lot of cuisines and the light purple hue is natural.  I always enjoy this with a little soy sauce and Chinese hot oil.

 

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The rest of items come out.  From the left to the right we have har gow, stuffed bean curd skin, chicken feet.  Har gow is shrimp dumplings, warm and succulent, you can never go wrong with these.  The stuff bean curd skin sounds odd but it also it filled with yummy goodness.  Inside the bean curd skin, there is meat and vegetables steamed in a light brown sauce.  Perfect with my hot oil which is roasted red chili pepper flakes.  Last but not least, there is the chicken feet.  I’m actually picky about my chicken feet.  It’s not that I eat them all the time but when I do, they better be good!  If it isn’t done right, it just tasty…fatty.  The chicken feet is here good, tasty and silky texture.  I know it sounds pretty gross still, but this is a great place to try them.

 

 

Dim sum is served from 11 am to 4 pm and Golden Lotus has a regular menu with lunch specials as well.  I’ve never had any complaints coming here and I definitely recommend people to come here and experience a different side of Chinese food.

 

 

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Poore Brothers Sweet Maui Onion Chips

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PooreBrothersSweetMauiOnionChipsI like to keep my eye out for things that good and/or interesting.  As I was strolling down the aisle at a Dollar Tree, I saw a bag of chips that made me go “hmmmm”.  Sweet Maui Onion Chips.  This could either by quite delicious and nastily sweet.    On the bag, it reads “intensely different”.  Oh really?  I’ll be the judge of that!

The look of the bag is very cute.  The cactus is because the Poore Brothers are based out of Arizona.  Overall, the design works.  It stood out to me and I had to try it.

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My thoughts?  I thought it would have been actually sweeter.  Luckily it wasn’t and it definitely had a nice crunch.  It didn’t seem as oily as other brands as I’ve had previously.  The company states they slice their potatoes thicker, cook their chips in batches and in lower temperatures.  The color of the chips aren’t as dark as other chips.  These are some pretty tasty chips! I tried to eat just one serving but that didn’t happen.

I think I’ll have to go back and try the Jalapeno chips too.  For those who don’t have a Dollar Tree close by, you can also order the chips from the Inventure Foods website.

 

Happy Snacking!

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Olive Garden Lake Buena Vista

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Olive Garden.  Dare I say it?  I’m eating at a chain restaurant.  It’s not that I’m against chain restaurants but when there are so many great restaurants out there, I tend not to go to chain restaurants.  I can’t recall the last time I went to Olive Garden, it’s probably been over 3 years.  My last experience was pretty ‘ehhhhh’ so I wasn’t the keenest on going to Olive Garden.

This Olive Garden is located on the corner of Palm Parkway and South Apopka Vineland (SR 535), close to Downtown Disney.  Oh great, the tourist side of town.  I already had low expectations.  Shame on me, I know.  Unexpectedly, I had a great experience here.  Servers were prompt and friendly, the restaurant was clean, and of course, I had the usual salad and breadsticks.  It’s amazing, I haven’t come to an Olive Garden in years and it’s still just how I remembered it.  (Personally, I don’t get how people are so in love with the breadsticks here.  It’s just breadsticks!)  Well, I’m trying to eat healthy, keyword “TRY” and I saw there was a ‘lighter Italian fare’ section.  Now, the question is, will this ‘lighter fare’ food actually taste good for being under 575 calories?  This section has five different entrees such as Venetian Apricot Chicken and Capellini Pomodoro.  I always enjoy seafood and selected the Seafood Brodetto.  The menu description is “scallops, shrimp and delicate tilapia with spinach and mushrooms simmered in a light white wine and marinara-saffron broth. Served with toasted ciabatta bread.  Yes, please!

SeafoodBrodettoWell, I loved this dish.  Great flavor, seafood was perfectly cooked.  Olive Garden, you surprised me, you really did.  The only thing I would have a concern about is the sodium content of this dish, otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Lee & Rick’s Half Shell Oyster Bar

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Oysters.  Either you love them or hate them.  Me?  I love them.  Especially the raw oysters.  I can honestly say I don’t know that many oyster bars in Orlando.  I’ve heard about Lee & Ricks Oyster Bar and seen many positive reviews on both Yelp and  Urbanspoon so it SHOULD be good.   Located on Old Winter Garden Road, I have driven past this place quite a few times and not even noticed it.  The entrance was a bit obscure.   It is actually facing the street.  I didn’t even realize as I walked to the side, trying to figure how to get in here.  As you enter the restaurant, it’s a sudden change.  Dimmly lighted, the strong scent of seafood, wood all around.  Wow, talk about the atmosphere in here.  You have you choice of sitting at the bar (which I recommend) or in the dining area.  The menu is quite simple but often times, that’s where you find the best food.  I can say I was a bit disappointed I didn’t see Oysters Rockefeller on the menu though.  The price is right, and the place is very casual.

 

OysterBarIf you come to an oyster bar, you’ve got to get oysters!  The oysters here are from Texas brought every few days and the server shucks them right in front of you.  How awesome is that?!  Get a bucket, grab your oyster fork, some napkins and prepare to chow down.  I shared a bucket with a friend and I probably could have easily had another one.  It was just so good, seriously.  They have saltines, lemon juice, hot sauce, and cocktail sauce bottles to accompany your oysters.  I also had some horseradish on the side.  It was fun experience, interacting with the server as he shucks your oysters.  As soon as he shucked one, I ate it instantly, it was just that good.  I cannot vouch for how the steamed oysters taste, but the raw oysters were just phenomenal.  So simple, yet so good.  The menu also has other seafood entrees which I ended up getting the steamed clams. Those were alright but a bit over steamed.  The service was fast and friendly.  I could defintiely see how this place has been around since 1950.

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