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Alas, magical dining month in Orlando is here! I previously had a post regarding Magical Dining Month where select restaurants in Orlando offered a three course meal for $33. It really is an amazing deal. Thanks to Visit Orlando, I had the opportunity to taste the menu at NAPA at the Peabody Orlando. There are actually two Peabody Hotels, one of which is in Memphis, TN and the other is right here in Orlando, FL. I hadn’t been to the Peabody before but passed it many times on I-drive. This was a great opportunity for me to check out NAPA.
The Peabody Orlando offers free valet parking for up to 3 hours if you dine at one of their restaurants. There’s the NAPA, Capriccio Grill, and B-Line Diner. NAPA is more California-based, specifically more wine country-inspired. The Capriccio Grill is an Italian Steakhouse and the B-Line Diner is 24 hour restaurant featuring classic American diner fare.
The Rocks Burning: Absolut Mandarin Vodka, serrano pepper, orange & cranberry juice and freshly squeezed lemon juice. There’s a definite kick with the initial sip but then it turns into a delicate heat.
If you’re facing the big colorful wall, NAPA is actually downstairs to the left and Rocks is up the stairs on the right. Once you enter NAPA, the ambiance totally changes. No televisions here, wine bottles used as decorations on the wall, dim lighting. It’s a very nice intimate feel, great for a date night.
Everything on the menu looks amazing. For the appetizer, you can select either the Bibb Lettuce or the Fall Squash Bisque. The Bibb Lettuce Salad was a delectable surprise. It was a fruitier salad, with the kumquats and pineapple vinaigrette but I think my favorite part of the salad were the spiced hazelnuts.
The Fall Squash Bisque was a hit among the other guests. I found it a tad sweet for my personal liking and would have preferred some more savoriness. Nonetheless, it was still delicious. It was a fun presentation as the server poured the soup into the bowl which already has the marshmallow and toasted sage in top.
For the entrée, you have three options. The Grilled Beef Filet, Cioppino, or the Forest Mushroom & Roasted Shallot Lasagne. Each entrée was excellent in their own right. The Grilled Beef Filet, mmmm.. I’m still salivating thinking of this dish. The smoked bacon risotto was cooked perfectly. The huckleberry demiglace just accompanied the beef filet wonderfully.
The Cioppino is a great option for seafood lovers. It is one of the signature dishes at NAPA. Mussels, calamari, lump crab, rock shrimp, mahi mahi, fennel, leeks, spicy tomato broth, and a paprika rouille. That was a mouthful, literally. Lots of flavor, the seafood wasn’t overcooked. The paprika rouille was a nice addition. Again, another hearty and flavorful dish. If you love a good bouillabaisse, then you’ll certainly enjoy the cioppino here. For those who wish to make the recipe at home, I’ve provided one here.
For the vegetarians, fear not there is an entrée for you as well. The Forest Mushroom & Roasted Shallot Lasagne. My fellow diners and I were blown away by the flavor of the lasagne. The lasagna pasta was slightly al dente, lots of mushrooms. The spicy tarragon tomato sauce just hit the spot.
Last but not least, can I forget dessert? The two options available are the Warm Apple Crumb Cake and the Nutty Brownie. The Warm Apple Crumb Cake is served with granny smith apples, candied walnuts and vanilla ice cream. It was a nice light dessert after all the amazing food I just ate. The Nutty Brownie, wow. I loved the Bailey’s Anglaise. This was such a fluffy brownie, just spectacular.
And what better way to finish off my meal then with a cappuccino?
The food at NAPA was incredible, I had an amazing evening with great people and just an overall great experience. Everything you eat here will be fantastic. Be sure to check out NAPA and the other restaurants in Orlando for Magical Dining Month. It’s a great way to try all these different restaurants at a discounted price. This really is a great deal and you will get high quality food. For those who want to have a little staycation in September, Visit Orlando offers Stay and Dine packages at select hotels in the area. Like the Peabody Orlando which offers the Superior Room and dinner for two at Napa or Capriccio Grill, for $159 per night.
We want it all when it comes to food. Healthy, quick, and cheap. Italio Kitchen in Winter Park achieves that mission (well, perhaps not necessarily cheap but it’s fairly inexpensive). The most expensive item on the menu is $8.98. There are actually three Italio locations in Florida but only one in the central FL at this time. Italio is like an Italian version of Chipotle Mexican Grill.
The interior is clean and crisp with red, gray and white throughout. You get more of a casual, urban feel here. Outdoor seating is available.
1. Pick your style: pasta, piadina, or salad.
2. Pick your protein: shrimp, steak, chicken, Italian sausage, meatball,
chicken fritte, or veggie (zucchini and baby portabella mushrooms).
3. Select your sauce, pesto or dressing.
(FYI: all of the pestos are nut-free).
4. Select your toppings.
(Lots of fresh toppings here.)
Don’t forget the cheese! MMMM… cheese. I love some shaved Parmesan.
For the pasta, you have two options (traditional or whole wheat thin spaghetti). Piadina is actually an Italian flatbread but at Italio you eat them as a wrap. At first, I couldn’t get into it conceptually. All the pictures I saw had the wraps with pasta in it. Pasta?! That’s like…carb overload! Well, I stopped and thought about it. People eat rice in their burritos, so why not pasta in their piadina? Makes sense.
So the last time I went to Italio, I ordered a salad bowl (once again). My salad consisted of: shrimp, romaine, blended greens, arugula, baby spinach, basil chiffonade, black olives, carrots, chickpeas, cucumbers, eggplant & sun-drired tomato caponata, mushrooms, red onions, roasted red peppers, roasted garlic and parmesan cheese. That was a mouthful! Literally. I had the balsamic dressing on the side and I actually barely used any. The roasted garlic and basil chiffonade gave my salad an extra boost. The staff mixes all the contents together and I recommend getting the dressing on the side.
There’s also other items on the menu as well such as the Italio Sticks, Calamari Misto, and Cannoli Chips.
Italio is good for a quick meal, fully customizable. There’s even online ordering for this location but you’ll still need to go to Italio to pick it up. It’s a healthy option to grab a bite if you happen to be in the area but not a must-try place.
Monday – Sunday 10:45 am – 10:00 pm
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Ynot Pizza & Italian Cuisine is a local restaurant chain in the Hampton Roads area. There are five locations, two of which are in Norfolk, VA. I went to the Ghent location on Colley Avenue. I remember when this used to be Szechuan in Ghent. You really can’t tell that it used to be a Chinese restaurant here.
I decided to come here because I wanted a good salad for an affordable price. Through the power of Internet search, I found a blog listing “Best Salads in Hampton Roads“. I saw Ynot at the top of the list, and figured I’d give it a go. My friends had told me the “it’s good” but that really doesn’t say much.
Parking can be a bit tight, there’s street parking available but I just parked behind the restaurant. The interior is spacious , outdoor seating is also available. I had Alex as my server, she was very nice and prompt. I had met up with my friends and we all ordered something different.
I came here with a plan, I hadn’t had a good salad in awhile and hoped Ynot would not disappoint. They have a “Custom Made Chop Salad” where you get the paper and make your selections. The salad starts off at $5.95 but with the addition of cheese, meats, other veggies, it’ll add up quickly. You pick your greens, toppings, meat/cheeses, dressing, and style of chop. I ordered the mesclun, broccoli, alfalfa sprouts, mushrooms, bacon, and fat-free raspberry vinaigrette. There are definitely lot of options here so it’s a great place for a vegetarian. Yum! I am definitely a fan! Although the flatbread crisps on the side didn’t do much for me.
One of my friends ordered the Deluxe Pizza. It has pepperoni, black olives, green bell peppers, sausage and mushrooms. Her and I agreed the pizza wasn’t that good. The crust was terribly hard to chew through like ciabatta but even more dense. I just wasn’t feeling this pizza. I mean I’m not saying it’s terrible but it certainly wasn’t great. My friend typically likes to cut through her pizza with a fork. Don’t ask me why, but she does. And I just watched her struggle. And continue to struggle. One good note, this pizza isn’t super greasy.
My other friend ordered the lasagna which included a garden salad and Italian bread. Nothing too special about this. I do not recommend ordering this dish. Yes, it was a good portion size; however, it was bland. I’d give it points for giving a comfort food feeling but it would have definitely been better with more flavorful sauce.
Ynot offers different menu items aside from the pizza, salad and the main entrées such as subs, pasta and dessert. Oooh, desserts. They have a display cake of the baked goods and gelato. I ordered the wildberry gelato. MMMM… I liked the gelato here and there’s quite of bit of variety to choose from.
In general, Ynot is a good option with an extensive menu. I’d definitely come back for more salad and gelato.
Sun – Thurs: 11am – 11pm
Fri & Sat: 11am – Midnight
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If someone were to ask me, what does Ethiopian food taste like, I really wouldn’t know what to say. Being the adventurous eater that I am, I decided to go to Nile Ethiopian Restaurant. Driving up to the restaurant, I began to have some doubts about this place. It’s located right in the super touristy part of Orlando. I-drive. From my past experiences, the food on I-drive isn’t something to brag about. While sitting in traffic (as expected on I-drive), I had plenty of time to wonder what kind of food I would be having tonight. Oh, google maps, don’t fail me now! I finally find the place, located behind Buffalo Wild Wings. This is not a restaurant one would happen to stumble upon.
Some of my vegetarian friends recommended this place, so I had some idea about this place. As I walked in, I was immediately greeted by a server. The warm earthy tones in the restaurant was a nice touch. To my right, I see this coffee ceremony set up. I am really digging the ambiance of the place. There is the usual dining area and to the left of the restaurant is the traditional style seating. Unfortunately for me, they had been very busy and didn’t have the areas cleaned.
As I browsed through the menu, the homemade honeywine caught my eye. Honey… mmmmmm. I always enjoy mead so this was right up my alley. I had fun drinking out of this glass. I could compare this to mead but this is much tastier. Imagine mead with more fruity flavor and less cough syrup-like flavor. I could probably drink 4 more of these. Probably not a good idea though. There was also some Ethiopian beer, Hakim Stout. I was a bit hesitant on the beer at first since I’m not an avid beer drinker. It wasn’t as bitter as I would have thought it to be. I could possibly drink all of this too. *gasp* I think I’m making progress with beer.
The menu has plenty of selections, vegetarian items, poultry, beef, lamb, seafood. The Chef’s Special caught my eye since it allows me to try different entrees. I’m definitely about variety! The Chef’s Special included: Chicken Doro Wat, Doro Alicha, Beef Alicha, Beef Tibs, Cabbage, Collard Greens, Lentils, and Split Peas. The yellow split peas was good overall, but nothing terribly exciting. I felt the same way with the red lentils. The cabbage had a lot of flavor as well as the collard greens. I think the chicken doro alicha was quite tasty. It was my first time eating Ethiopian food and I didn’t realize there were no serving utensils. I had to use injera to eat my food. Injera is a type of flatbread made from teff flour. You can expect a sour flavor and traditionally, it’s even more sour. I thought it was plenty sour already. The texture was a bit different to say the least. Imagine a soft, spongy, cold, slightly sticky crêpe. So, you rip pieces of the injera to grab your food. The sponginess was great in sopping up the sauces. The meal itself was on top of injera.
This truly was a learning experience. Definitely a filling meal! Overall, everything was quite flavorful and I definitely recommend it for everyone to experience at least once.
Oh, and if you’re wondering what Ethiopian food tastes like, I’d say it’s has hearty, earthy flavors. It’s like Indian minus the spiciness with some Mediterranean influences. Better yet, you guys try it and tell me what you think of it!
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.
Yes, I said lettuce soup. Have you ever gotten tired of just eating lettuce? It’s good for you, but how many salads can you really eat? I decided to look into what else I could do with lettuce. I had 3 romaine heads in the refrigerator and I really didn’t feel like eating any more lettuce. I came across a recipe for lettuce soup. Hmm… this could be very interesting. Try this soup hot or cold!
Romaine Lettuce Soup:
- 2 TBS of unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 onion, chopped (I used red onion since that’s what I have on hand)
- 2 garlic clove, minced
- 3 heads of romaine lettuce, chopped
- 1 tsp dried parsley
- 1 1/2 cups of water or vegetable stock
- 1 cube of vegetable bouillon if you use water
- salt and pepper to taste
- Put pan on medium to high heat, place butter in pan.
- Add onions, sauté for 8 minutes or until onions are translucent.
- Add garlic, be sure to stir ingredients around and not let the garlic burn.
- Add parsley and lettuce. Constantly stir to let the lettuce cook.
- Add some water and bouillon to help cook the lettuce. If you’re not using any bouillon, add 1/4 cup of stock.
- After all the lettuce is wilted transfer contents to a blender and add enough water to blend the contents well. Do not add all the water, this is to ensure you don’t have a messy kitchen and get soup splattered on your face. If you don’t have a blender, use a hand immersion blender but make sure the contents are in a pot.
- Heat contents in pot, reduce the soup if desired.
Ah… mushroom powder, how much I love thee! Sounds a bit odd, I’m sure. Seems like these days, not many people are that fond of mushrooms even though they’re so yummy! If you’re not familiar with the term “umami” then be prepare for some education.
Pop quiz: How many types of taste are there? Any guesses? 4, 5? Well, there’s sweet, salty, bitter, and sour. That’s it, right? It depends on who’s answering the question. For awhile, people stuck to the four but there are others (including me) who stick to the 5 types of taste buds. So, what’s the fifth one? Umami, which is a Japanese word that doesn’t have an exact translation but you will find it described as “deliciousness” or “savoriness”. I just prefer to call it “that ‘je ne sais quoi’ “. Research has shown that mushrooms are high on the umami scale. On a side note, you will find in Ayurveda (a holistic medicine derived from India) that there are 6 types of taste: sweet, salt, sour, pungent, astringent, and bitter. I don’t have much knowledge on the matter but it does seem like an interesting topic. Perhaps something to read more about at a later point. I am definitely a nerd so this type of thing seems right up my alley.
If your dish or soup needs some extra pizzazz, try using mushroom powder. It works great as a flavor enhancer due to the high glutamate levels. A natural MSG, so to speak. Since this is my first time making mushroom powder, I just stuck to the good ole regular button mushrooms. Next time, I get some portabella mushrooms or shiitake mushrooms.
- 1 ounce package of mushrooms
- Clean the mushrooms with a damp paper towel to remove the dirt. (I actually like to quickly rinse my mushrooms, drain, then clean with a damp paper towel. In a culinary sense, you shouldn’t wash them but my personal preference is to do so. You could also have a mushroom brush but I don’t see a need for that.)
- Slice mushrooms to desired consistency. 1/8″ to 1/16″ thick. The thinner you cut them, the faster the mushrooms dry. For consistency, I used a mandolin.
- Arrange the mushroom slices evenly on the food dehydrator tray. In six hours, it should be done. Be sure to rotate the trays and have the vents open up top (if applicable). If you don’t have a food dehydrator, then the oven works just as well too. Just set the temperature to 150°F on an non-oiled baking sheet for an hour. Flip the mushrooms and let it bake for another hour. If you can break it easily then it’s done.
- Let the mushrooms cool, then place mushrooms in food processor. You can also use a coffee grinder.