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Author Nancy J. Cohen discusses the writing process and life as a Florida resident.

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Posts Tagged ‘food’

Food Fun in Orlando

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 4, 2017

September is a bonanza month in Orlando for foodies like me. It’s Magical Dining Month at many of the area’s fancy restaurants, meaning you can get a three-course meal for $35 each. And it starts Disney’s annual Epcot Food and Wine Festival.

For Magical Dining Month, we visited two restaurants that would have been pricey otherwise. The first was Big Fin™ Seafood Kitchen located in Delagio off West Sand Lake Road on Restaurant Row. The restaurant is a lively place with an upscale crowd. This evening, I dined on a starter course of lobster bisque that was creamy and good. Another member of our party began their meal with oysters.

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My entrée was Maine lobster tail. When I’ve had lobster on cruise ships, it’s always rather bland and doesn’t have much taste except for the sauce. This time was different. At Big Fin, the lobster meat sat atop the shell so you didn’t have to work at it. I discarded the shell in a bowl provided for that purpose and dug in. The lobster meat was succulent and flavorful, probably the best I’ve had short of a lobster meal in Bar Harbor, Maine. I dipped it in melted butter and enjoyed the accompaniment of mashed potatoes and green beans.

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Dessert was Key lime pie. How can I resist one of my favorites? It was both sweet and tart at the same time with the right amount of graham cracker crust and a dollop of whipped cream.

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The following night found us at Eddie V’s, where we’ve only gone before to celebrate special occasions. Also located on Restaurant Row, this place has a lovely view of a lake at the rear. The Caesar salad wasn’t the best I’ve had. It appeared to be big chunks of lettuce (Romaine?) with a dressing that was too vinegary and didn’t taste so much like Caesar’s to me, with shaved Parmesan and croutons that were small pieces of toast that not even my fork could penetrate. The eight ounce beef filet was done just right for my entrée and was tender and juicy. We had to pay extra for our accompaniments of choice being potatoes au gratin and broccolini. Dessert was a bananas foster cake with butter pecan ice cream. This dish was very sweet and reminiscent of an English plum pudding. It also stuck to my teeth. Nonetheless, we continue to like the atmosphere and excellent service here.

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At Epcot, we made the rounds of World Showcase after stopping in at the Light Lab to sample a Glownut. Everything glows in this new attraction in the back of the Coca Cola hut where you can sample free international sodas. The Light Lab has a single cashier who takes your treat order from a limited menu of glowy items. Then white lab-coated staffers serve your food or drink from behind a counter. Space is limited so there could be lines. We ate the Glownut which looks cool inside the place, but out in the concourse it has a plain white frosting with sprinkles. It’s sweet and caloric.

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Outside, it was too hot for me to have much of an appetite. I didn’t feel like eating any beef, duck or chicken dishes that might have sounded tempting otherwise. Instead, I had my favorite potato pancake with smoked salmon from Scotland. I tried the pistachio cake with chocolate coconut mousse (?) from India. It was pretty to look at but dry to taste. The heat sapped my energy and dampened my taste buds, unless it’s the cold I’ve been fighting for a week. I won’t return here until the humidity drops along with the temperature. The weather didn’t discourage anyone else as the park was crowded.

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So this has been a weekend of overeating, getting in some walking to counteract the calories, and leaving the diet plan for our return home.

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Posted in Disney, Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Chef Jean Pierre Cooking School

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 30, 2017

We attended Jean Pierre’s Cooking School last night, thanks to a generous gift from our daughter. The complex consists of a commercial kitchen in back, a store selling gourmet spices, olive oil, vinegar, cooking pans, and utensils in the front, and a classroom holding thirty guests off to the side. We received bottled water, but if you want wine, you are welcome to bring your own. We took our seats in the comfortably upholstered chairs. These all faced forward so we could easily see the chef or watch his movements in an overhead mirror.

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Chef Jean Pierre is an entertaining personality who’d operated The Left Bank restaurant in downtown Fort Lauderdale. We used to enjoy meals there along with his tableside preparations of various French dishes. Now he runs the cooking school, which appears to be highly popular judging from the full-house last night and the distance some folks came to attend.

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The first course was Shrimp Sambucca with Israeli Couscous. It tasted sublime and could easily be a main entrée. It seemed fairly easy to make, except for peeling and deveining the shrimp.

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Next came Steak Diane in a flavorful mushroom tomato sauce. The chef cut beef tenderloins into medallions and pounded them between parchment paper so they came out thin and easy to sauté. The potatoes were made by thinly slicing sweet potatoes and regular baking potatoes on a mandolin. This dish required a lot of preparation so we got to taste the results. Buttered baby green beans accompanied the meal.

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By now I was full, but I made room for the irresistible Bananas Foster. Who doesn’t like this sweet dish of caramelized bananas with vanilla ice cream?

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Naturally I learned a few interesting cooking tips. For example, if you’re using thickeners, flour should be added in the beginning as it needs to cook adequately. Cornstarch can be added at the end. When adding flour to a sauce cooking in a pot, put a strainer in the pot and add the flour. Whisk the flour through the strainer, and this will avoid lumps.

As for storing garlic, you can buy a jar of peeled garlic. Then chop it all up in a food processor. Add a little olive oil and mix. Freeze in an ice cube tray, and you have set portions to drop into your dishes thereafter.

NOTE: These are my interpretations and any errors are mine.

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Posted in Florida Musings, Food, Recipes, That's Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Bedners Farm and Market

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 23, 2017

Bedner’s Farm was established in 1960 by Arthur Bedner from Pennsylvania. Today the 80-acre property is run by his three sons and grandson.

The store itself is in a sprawling building off Route 441 in Palm Beach County between Boynton Beach Blvd. and Atlantic Ave. Parking is in front or at an overflow lot in the back. From the back, you climb up a small rise toward the main attractions. A narrow water-filled canal borders the fields so you can’t reach them from the rear parking lot. Just across the ditch is a pepper patch growing red and green bell peppers. Divided by tall sugar cane plants that serve as a wind block are more fields growing strawberries and grape tomatoes.

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We decided to go picking first. At an open air stand, you collect however many buckets you want by leaving your credit card. In return, you are assigned a number that you have to remember. Prices are listed on signage.

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From here, we trudged along a packed dirt path to the fields. The sun was warm and the temperature rose to the low eighties. The air had low humidity, making for a pleasant day. Hats shaded our eyes along with sunglasses. I wore a fanny pack where I kept my camera. Row after row of plants stretched before us. One section, the plants flattened and dried, had held cucumbers. Another with tomato plants had been picked clean of ripe, red tomatoes and held only green ones. So my husband headed toward the peppers while I went to pick strawberries.

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I held each stem between forefinger and middle finger and gently yanked. One-by-one, I plopped the berries into my bucket while inhaling the scent of fruit warming in the sun. It was addictive, and I couldn’t stop picking the fruits. My treasure hunt revealed the ripe red berries glistening in the sun and waiting to be snatched. When my bucket was nearly full, I went to find my spouse. He had some delectable pepper specimens in his pail. We headed back up a slight ridge toward the open-air sales booth and turned in our buckets. Our bounty came to just over $18.00. I put my driver’s license back in my wallet and the brown paper shopping bags into the car.

We bypassed the tractor-pulled tram ride and gem mining in a nearby wooden sluice with a water tower at the top. Hungry from our exertions, we strode over to Porky & Beth’s Barbecue truck across the yard from the outdoor ticket booth.

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The aroma of barbecued beef wafted into our noses. I ordered a quarter chicken and Richard got the brisket. Yellow rice accompanied his meal while I chose mac and cheese. We’d both selected cole slaw and also ordered drinks. By the time we took our Styrofoam-encased meals to the thatch-roof covered picnic area, I was salivating. I tore into my meal, hungrier than ever. There’s nothing like outdoor exercise and a barbecue cooked by someone else to stimulate your appetite. Birds stood nearby, twittering while we ate. A welcome breeze cooled our skin while we swatted flies away from our food. Happily full, we tossed our empty trash in the can to proceed in our explorations.

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Facing the fields, we noted a petting zoo and pony rides to our left but resisted a visit to this popular kids’ area, instead heading toward the indoor market. Sheds with empty crates, tools, and tractors dotted the property. As we approached the air-conditioned building, we noted a Sabrett hot dog stand, a lemonade stand, soft pretzels, and homemade ice cream available from various vendors. There was also a lady selling clothing and another selling orchids at five plants for twenty dollars.

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Inside the building, we took a shopping cart and plowed down each narrow aisle. The place had a crowd which made maneuvering difficult. It’s best to get there early. Besides the usual fresh produce, I spied olive oils, vinegars, olives, pickle barrels, granola mixtures, Florida-made honey, soaps, challah rolls, onion rolls, a variety of breads including but not limited to banana and zucchini breads and gluten-free choices. One section held bins with peppers in different colors and shapes. There was pasta and pesto, hot sauces, gourmet tortilla chips, hot peanuts, a coffee machine where you could buy a cup, olive spreads, packaged nuts, salad dressings, fruity sauces, apple butter, pickled peaches, German sauerkraut, and a large selection of wines. It’s easy to fill your shopping cart.

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I’d like to return here in the fall when they have a pumpkin patch and corn fields. Here’s the bounty we brought home this time. Now I have to decide what to do with it all. Eggplant Parmigian with a fresh salad, anyone?

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Posted in Florida Musings, Food, Research, That's Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | 22 Comments »

Fun Weekend

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 9, 2017

I finished all corrections for Hair Brained (Bad Hair Day #14) last week and printed out a clean copy. To celebrate this accomplishment, I took time off this weekend to relax and have some fun. Friday night started with the 20th anniversary party at Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore.

I remember when this store used to be in Miami. It was a shlep to go down there but worth the effort to see the friendly face of Joanne Sinchuk, proprietor. Always supportive of authors, Joanne has hosted many book events at her store through the years. Now located in Delray Beach, the bookstore has a prime spot in a busy shopping area. Members from the Florida Chapter of MWA were present along with members from Florida Romance Writers. We mingled with readers and chatted about books. Delicious appetizers from a nearby restaurant tempted our palates. Congrats to Murder on the Beach for twenty years in the business!

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Saturday morning, my husband and I took a walk in Ann Kolb Nature Center. It was glorious weather in the eighties until the clouds rolled in. We walked along viewing the mangrove roots and holes for the land crabs and the wide lake.

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We lunched on the Intracoastal Waterway in GG’s Waterfront Bar and Grill in Hollywood, FL. I like the elegant ambiance here with a water view where you can watch the yachts cruise by. The food is excellent. Our meal started with crusty French bread served with butter and hummus dip. The starter course was delectable mushrooms in miso broth. And our grilled salmon was perfect with roasted Brussel sprouts and butternut squash puree. This restaurant is a great place to take out-of-town guests or to hold a special event.

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Celebrity Equinox – The Food, Part 2

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 30, 2016

Day Three found us at Murano, one of the specialty restaurants aboard the Celebrity Equinox cruise ship. We had exquisite service in elegant surroundings. Our meal began with a complimentary fried scallop. Next I had a crab and smoked salmon parfait with salmon caviar. We chose Chateaubriand for two which the waiter carved tableside. It came with fingerling potatoes and asparagus. For dessert, I had the chocolate soufflé.

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On another day, we attended the complimentary wine tasting for Elite members that came with four glasses and breadsticks. The complimentary tea party had waiters circulating with a selection of open sandwiches with smoked salmon, shrimp, egg salad, and ham. Then desserts followed. After the rum cake, I couldn’t even eat a scone.

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And so ended our journey, with us boarding as passengers and rolling off as cargo. With the holidays upon us, it’ll be a while before I lose these extra pounds. And then we’re likely to be on board our next cruise and starting all over again.

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Celebrity Equinox – The Food, Part 1

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 29, 2016

The Oceanview Café’s breakfast buffet had stations for omelets or eggs made to order, toast including bagels and English muffins, rolls, Danish, croissants, muffins, yogurt, berry medley, cereal, whole or cut fruits, scrambled eggs with Cheddar cheese. English breakfast. Asian breakfast. American breakfast. Bacon, ham, sausages. Smoked salmon. Herring. Roasted potatoes and sautéed vegetables. Grilled zucchini, sautéed mushrooms, Eggs Benedict. Hungry yet? Our only complaint is that the buffet opens at 7. If you’re an early riser, you can only get fruit and yogurt before then. It would have been nice to have pastries available earlier.

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Lunch could be taken at the outdoor grill with burgers or hot dogs and French fries, at the very small spa café by the solarium pool on Deck 12, where some items cost extra; in the formal dining room, or at the Oceanview Café. Here you had a choice of freshly carved meats, deli meats, sandwiches made to order, various salads, salad bar, hot dishes, Asian foods (we particularly liked the vegetable fried rice), Indian foods, British foods, soups and breads, pizza and garlic toast, pasta, and an array of tempting desserts including an ice cream bar. Free drinks included lemonade, iced tea, a fruity drink, water, and hot beverages at a coffee station. The Lavazza coffee served throughout the cruise was very good. Real half-and-half was available in urns along with milk. Inside the ship, you can get free desserts at the coffee lounge but no free sandwiches or appetizers like on other cruise lines. I missed having this extra choice. For a ship of this size, free dining choices are limited.

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Dinner on Day one for me was Shrimp Louie with Avocado, a Chicken Egg Roll, Caesar Salad. Prime ribs came with buttered French green beans and mashed potatoes. The portions of all the meals were generous. For dessert, I had apple pie a la mode. Dinner Two was a shrimp cocktail, braised lamb shank with broccoli, carrots, and mashed potatoes. Other meals included braised beef short ribs, vegetable Wellington, lobster with butter sauce. The salads at dinner were varied each night, like kale with roasted walnuts, dried cherries, and diced butternut squash. The French onion soup, available each night as an appetizer along with shrimp cocktail and Caesar salad, looked delicious but would have been a whole meal for me. My mouth waters at the thought, and now I want a crock of hot onion soup with melted cheese on top. I miss these scrumptious meals.

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Food Fun at Epcot and West Orlando

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 18, 2016

Besides attending the Epcot Food and Wine Festival at Disney World this past weekend in Orlando, we tried a couple of new restaurants. Friday night, we ate at Longhorn in Winter Garden. This wasn’t new to us, but I ordered the grilled shrimp and enjoyed this dish with rice, a baked sweet potato, salad, and bread.

On Saturday, we ate brunch at Slate. This trendy establishment is located by Trader Joes on West Sand Lake Road. Weekend brunch menu items are reasonably priced and varied in selection. Our family shared the deviled eggs appetizer, and I had the toast points with smoked salmon for my meal. This wasn’t lox like I’d expected but real pieces of cooked salmon in a tasty mixture. While pricey for dinner, the restaurant is open during weekdays for lunch.

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Since we weren’t too hungry for dinner, we took a walk around Disney’s Riverside Resort that is close to our condo. Then we settled into the lounge for drinks and appetizers that would serve as our meal. I enjoyed the cheese fritters that were fried cheese balls in a sweet red pepper sauce. My Mai Tai had lots of fruit juice but seemed to be light on the rum. The guys had the hearty gumbo soup.

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Sunday we went to Epcot for a stroll around World Showcase. Here we turned right and stopped first at the Caribbean marketplace. I passed on their seared grouper with pigeon peas and rice in coconut sauce, deciding to wait for further fare. One member of our party tried their Quesito puff pastry stuffed with sweetened cream cheese and guava sauce. At Patagonia, our son had the grilled beef skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Puree.

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My first taste was the mushroom beef filet mignon at Canada ($7.25). At Scotland, I had one of my favorite dishes, the crispy potato pancake with Scottish smoked salmon and herbed sour cream ($5.00).

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After getting my protein, I was prepared to saunter along in the ninety-degree heat toward France. They always have dishes I like but the portions are generous, and I decided to save my appetite. The guys each had the Beef Bourguignon, braised short ribs with mashed potatoes ($6.25). I’ve had it before, and it’s very good but filling. And it was too hot for their onion soup with gruyere and cognac. Nor was I ready for dessert, or I’d have had the caramel chocolate crème brulee. Don’t these descriptions make your mouth water?

Belgium had a dish I might have tried if I hadn’t already eaten meat. The beer-braised beef with smoked gouda mashed potatoes sounded good. Next time. Of course, you can get Belgian waffles here, too.

At Japan, our daughter had the spicy sushi roll ($5.75). I couldn’t resist the garlic shrimp and rice ($6.95). It’s as good as it sounds, although if you eat all the rice, you might get too stuffed for anything else. As it was, I’d wanted to try the smoked beef brisket and pimento cheese at the American Adventure, but was already getting too full. Their lobster roll and carrot cake sounded tempting, too.

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We dipped into the Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar at Italy to share a bottle of wine and to cool off in the darkened interior. It’s a quiet place where you can relax and recoup your energy along with your appetite.

Unfortunately, I didn’t recoup my hunger enough to try the Korean BBQ beef, the Chinese roasted duck with hoisin sauce or the chicken pot stickers, the Mexican chocolate flan, or the lamb chop at Australia. Next time, we’ll have to start to the left at World Showcase and go around in the opposite direction.

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Toward the end, I stopped at Farm Fresh for their savory mac and cheese dish ($4.50) that came with bacon bits and chopped green onions. It was my favorite taste of this visit. Their stewed chicken with mushrooms and spinach sounded good, but I couldn’t eat anymore. Or drink anymore. I might have liked to try the Mai Tai or pineapple wine at the Hawaii marketplace.

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Meandering past the Caribbean site again, we visited the new additions on our way back to Future World. We couldn’t resist the Chocolate Studio where we sampled the red wine chocolate truffle ($2.25) and the chocolate raspberry torte ($4.00).

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Note that vegetarian, gluten-free, and kid-friendly items are marked in the Festival Passport booklet. The Food and Wine Festival is open until mid-November. It’s especially pleasant once the season’s first cold front moves in and cools the air. Meanwhile, be prepared with umbrellas for the passing showers. And now that I’ve reviewed all these treats available there, I’m ready to go again.

That night, we didn’t feel like eating a heavy dinner, so we ventured to 33 & Melt, a grilled cheese emporium only open past 4:00 pm in the Summerport area of Windermere. It’s located amid townhouses in a residential district at a recreated town square. A few other shops are sprinkled in here with a lake toward the rear. I had the grilled brie with raspberry preserves sandwich. Entries come with salad greens tossed in champagne vinaigrette; a dipper of very tasty tomato soup, and a couple of pickle slices. It’s a small neighborhood place with a bar serving beer and wine, but it’s family-friendly and the food is good.

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Look at what waited by our doorstep on our return home. Was he out looking for a meal, too?

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STK Restaurant Disney Springs

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 7, 2016

We wanted to try the newly opened STK Orlando restaurant at Disney Springs, and Magical Dining Month gave us the perfect opportunity. Reservations are definitely recommended for this popular dining establishment located by the bridge between the Marketplace and the West End. Inside, thumping music from a DJ’s selections greeted us as we were seated. The dimly lit interior was pleasantly designed in black and white colors. Here are the dining room and the bar area.

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Evidently, lunch is served on a second level, and there’s a rooftop location as well. As it was raining out, we did not go up for a view after dinner. We ordered a glass of wine each. They did not have the bottle we wanted for fifty-some dollars and instead said the least expensive bottle of wine was sixty-eight dollars. A glass of wine costs thirteen dollars and up. So be prepared to spend some bucks on your liquor. Beer is less costly. The pull-apart bread comes with some kind of flavored olive oil dip.

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I chose the beets with goat cheese and hazelnuts for my starter dish. It was unusual and delicious. Tomato soup or a Romaine salad were other choices.

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Since we’d had fish last night, we all chose the petite filet that came charred on the outside and tender pink on the inside. This came with a mildly spicy sauce and a few waxed beans. We ordered a dish of sautéed mushrooms on the side. The meal was so good that none of us had leftovers to take home.

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The men in our party chose the orange dream cheesecake for dessert while we ladies had the chocolate chip cookie with ice cream. The large inflated cookie was the crispy variety and not too soft. We preferred the lava cake from the night before. Nonetheless, there wasn’t a crumb left on our plates.

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Now that I’ve probably gained back the couple of pounds I’d lost before this trip, we are ready to return home and eat more mundane and healthful choices.

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Eleven at Reunion Resort

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 5, 2016

Eleven at Reunion Resort

Saturday night, we dined at Eleven rooftop restaurant at the Reunion Resort in Kissimmee, FL. We like trying new places during Orlando’s Magical Dining Month, where you can get a three-course meal for $33 per person. This golf resort sits off exit 58 from I-4 heading west from Orlando toward Tampa. It’s a large gated community that winds around until you reach the resort proper.

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The views atop the eleventh floor warrant a visit. Note how you can see Epcot in the far distance. A swimming pool is adjacent to the restaurant named Eleven.

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Inside, the dining area is pleasant with views all around. The first course we chose was coconut shrimp, crispy and succulent with a spicy sauce on the side.

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Next we ordered cedar planked salmon which came accompanied by mashed potatoes and asparagus. This was tasty and a generous enough portion that I had leftovers to take home. I didn’t care so much for the soft rolls in the bread basket as they had a sprinkling of salt on the crust, and I didn’t need the added sodium. An herb butter gave a mild flavor.

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Dessert, a chocolate lava cake, was sinfully rich. I ate the whole thing. It’s diet city for me once we go home.

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While I enjoyed trying this restaurant and seeing the view, I wouldn’t make a return trip here. It’s too far out of the way, and although the meal was good, I can get an equivalent salmon or steak dinner elsewhere.

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Lobster Lovers Cooking Class

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 9, 2016

Lobster Lovers Cooking Class

We attended the Lobster Lovers class at Publix Aprons® Cooking School. My husband and I like shrimp better than lobster, but this menu looked too tempting to resist. We prefer the demo classes where students sit at white-clothed tables rather than the hands-on ones where you have to do the actual work. In the demo variety, after the chef makes each dish in front of us, we get to eat it with an accompanying wine. This makes for a gourmet meal complete with recipes and cooking tips.

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Grilled Lobster, Shrimp and Andouille Chowder paired with an Erath Pinot Grigio.

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This was delicious and filling, making it a good choice for a hearty winter soup. We liked the wine, a pleasant taste to our palates. Cooking tip 1: Maine cold water lobster is sweeter than warm water Caribbean varieties. Cooking tip 2: Rather than dunking shrimp into a pot of boiling water, put it into a pot when the water is room temperature and bring it to a boil along with the water.

Spiny Lobster and Mango Spring Rolls with Tarragon-Lime Aioli paired with a Benzinger Sauvignon Blanc.

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This was a tasty appetizer. I especially liked the aioli even though I’m not a big tarragon fan. Cooking tip 1: An emulsifier binds substances together like vinegar and oil. Examples of emulsifiers are mustard, egg yolks, and garlic. Cooking tip 2: Pasteurized eggs reduce the chance of salmonella if you are using raw eggs in a recipe. As for the wine, it didn’t seem to have as much body as the first one and was too light for our tastes.

Pan-Bronzed Lobster Risotto with Roasted Corn Relish and Orange-Sherry Reduction paired with a Layer Cake Chardonnay.

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I liked the lobster, sauce, and corn relish but there was too much risotto in comparison. Cooking tip, if I heard correctly: You can roast corn in its husk at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. I prefer my method, which is microwaving it in the husk for 4 minutes, chopping off both ends, and sliding the husk off. We really liked this wine choice, our favorite of the evening.

Peach Brown Betty with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream paired with a Chateau St. Michelle Riesling.

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This dessert was lip-smacking good. So good and easy to make that I might even make it at home once I lose the weight I’d gained here tonight. However, I’ll use store-bought ice cream instead of making my own. The wine was too sweet for our tastes. Cooking tip 1: Use frozen and thawed sliced peaches instead of blanching and peeling fresh ones. Cooking tip 2: Cinnamon is an anesthetic so if you eat too much, it can numb your tongue.

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Posted in Florida Musings, Food, Recipes, That's Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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