Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

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Posts Tagged ‘Orlando’

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 »

Pandora – The World of Avatar

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 6, 2017

We visited Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and set out to explore the world of Avatar. Our entrance into this magical land took us past a lounge that looked inviting.

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We skipped the new rides, not having fast passes and not caring to wait two hours in the standby line. It was delightful to stroll around and view the amazing flora and fauna. Disney did a wonderful job making you feel you’re on an alien planet.

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Mountains rise in the distance, past this floating masterpiece, while musicians welcome visitors to their land.

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Hungered by our journey, we entered the canteen where healthful choices tempted us. I had the chicken bowl with rice and vegetable slaw. Others in our party had cheeseburger pods or vegetable curry pods. My non-alcoholic drink, a Pandoran Sunrise, was green and tasted like melon juice.

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Inside the gift shop, you can buy all sorts of theme-related wares. It was fun to browse although we left with our wallets intact.

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It took us a couple of hours to stroll around. If you go on the rides, allow more time. You’ll still have the rest of the day free to explore the Animal Kingdom. I love the lush greenery of this theme park anyway, and the new addition adds to the allure.

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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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Coca-Cola at Disney Springs

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 5, 2016

We saw Star Trek: Beyond at Disney’s AMC Dine-In Theater at Disney Springs in Orlando. I liked the film and would rate it five stars. The galactic scope isn’t as broad as the Star Wars universe, but Star Trek focuses more on characters. I thought this movie did a good job with the character interactions among the crew and the personal journeys of Kirk and Spock. The villain’s motivation seemed plausible. His weapons were immensely powerful compared to Federation defenses, and action scenes were plentiful. I had a good time and will definitely buy the DVD when it comes out.

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The Coca-Cola Store had opened since we’d been here last, so we had to visit. I was suitably impressed by the array of merchandise offered at the two-level shop inside. The variety exceeded my expectations. Up on the third level, we stopped by the outdoor bar to try their combo sampler of sodas and floats. Be prepared for a sugar high after you try all these drinks. Dinner was at The Melting Pot on West Sand Lake Road. Good for a fondue experience but no leftovers.

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The next day, we hung around Millennia Mall and went to lunch at La Madeleine. There’s a coffee place at one end and a restaurant at the other. You order your food, get a table, and wait for your order to be delivered. Crepes, soups, sandwiches, and salads are on the menu along with more substantial entrees. I felt a couple of pounds heavier as we left.

There’s always something new to explore in Orlando. Make it your destination.

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Magic Kingdom Revisited

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 3, 2016

The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida represents family outings and celebrations. My husband and I went there after we got engaged. We went there again to celebrate when I’d sold my first book. This sale culminated a long, hard struggle as I wrote six books before selling a three-book contract to Dorchester. My first published title, Circle of Light, sold about the same time The Lion King came out. Every time I heard “Circle of Life” playing, it reminded me of my book with a sense of joy and wonder that my career had finally taken off. And since Circle of Light, winner of the HOLT Medallion, was a scifi romance, Tomorrowland was a particular favorite of mine. Speaking of which, I enjoyed the movie by that name. We’ve returned to Disney World every year, often several times, from when our children were babies to now with them as adults. We have annual passes and still enjoy the beautiful landscaping, the happy ambiance, and the place where dreams can come true.

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We went on It’s A Small World and People Mover rides this time. It was too hot for waiting in lines. Lunch was at the Colombia Harbour House opposite the Haunted Mansion. I had a hummus, tomato, and broccoli slaw sandwich.

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As we strolled back to Main Street, we came upon a delightful entertainment:

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The Magic Kingdom is still a magical experience. I’m hoping the family memories we create there will pass on to the next generation.


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Disney Springs

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 30, 2016

Disney Springs has opened the Lime parking garage and the town center since our last visit. We enjoyed strolling around the new shopping area and eating lunch at the burger place.

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Lots of other new restaurants have yet to open. I’m eager for the Floridian one. The Edison looks like it has a long way to go, and so does the remodel of the old Planet Hollywood restaurant. Our kids liked the cupcake ATM at Sprinkles.

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We saw Independence Day: Resurgence at the theater here. The movie was fun but predictable. It got us out of the heat for a few hours.

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Dinner that night was at Cooper’s Hawk, a popular restaurant on International Drive and Sand Lake Road just east of I-4. I ate braised beef short ribs, very tender meat, and had leftovers to take home.

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Disney Springs is a fun destination with free parking, shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. It gets livelier in afternoons and evenings, so if you want a quiet stroll, come early.

 

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Home Shows

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 30, 2016

We’ve been interested in home and design shows lately. Maybe it’s because we are undergoing a bathroom remodel, and we want to see what we’ve missed. Recently, we’ve attended one show in Orlando and one in Fort Lauderdale. To the left below: Fort Lauderdale. To the right below: Orlando. In the middle: People testing the recliners or just having a rest.

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The Orlando Convention Center is enormous. You have to know which building is housing your event to determine the proper parking lot. You park outdoors and then have quite a walk to the event venue. Inside the one we attended, there was only a single food court with not the most appealing menu choices. We preferred the Fort Lauderdale site that has multiple food booths at either end of the cavernous hall. Be prepared for steep prices. A plain hot dog costs $5.00. This one with an onion is from the food court in Orlando. No onions that we could see in Fort Lauderdale.

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The Fort Lauderdale event seemed more crowded with both vendors and guests. At both events, booths displayed a range of goods of fancy art works, crystal chandeliers, and luxury furnishings to the nitty-gritty air-conditioning systems, hurricane impact windows, and bath/kitchen updates you’d expect to be displayed. Cooking demos competed with vendors trying to get you to sign up for a free something-or-other in exchange for your email address. Below: Choose your art. Frog musicians to the left; spinning shoe rack to the right (buy your own shoes).

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It’s a fun afternoon, if you don’t mind the admission charge. You get your indoor walking in a cooled environment and see all the things for your house that you’ll never be able to afford.

 

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Orlando Showtime

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 18, 2016

Mother’s Day morning found us picking blueberries at the Beck Brothers farm in Windermere. Their berries stay fresh longer than any store-bought varieties. They’re a bit tart this early in the season but are great on cereal or in pancakes.

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Since we were attending a show (Beautiful: The Carole King Story) at the new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Orlando, we chose to dine nearby at The Boheme Restaurant in the Grand Bohemian Hotel. The elegant red décor matched the elevated prices but we felt the service wasn’t comparable to other upscale places, in our opinion. But you might think otherwise, and it is a mere few steps away from the theater. The food was very good.

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The dazzling Dr. Phillips Center was built in a contemporary/modern style. I felt like I was on a cruise ship during show time. Seats at the orchestra level far back had a good view of the stage. There looked to be four floors maybe, with cafés on each one. Anyway, you could grab a substantial snack here if you’re hungry. You can bring drinks into the theater but not food, and seats have drink holders. We enjoyed the lively show and the music from an earlier era. Now this has made me want to see what’s playing in the theaters at home.

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Yellow Dog Dining Experience

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 16, 2016

Our daughter, a foodie like us, knows the trendy dining establishments in Orlando. She took us to Yellow Dog Eats, an eclectic restaurant in Gotha, a sleepy suburb southwest of Orlando proper.

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This eaterie is situated in a historic home built in 1910.

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Inside, you order your food from an extensive menu, take a number, and find a table. The waiter brings your order. You can sit indoors or outside at a back patio. It’s a lively scene with music on weekend evenings.

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Hippie-era signs decorate the property.

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Nearby is an old church and a classic hair salon in a typical old Florida-style house with a sloped roof and wraparound porch. Spanish moss hangs from the tree limbs, and a sense of serenity pervades the locale. Stop by if you’re in the area and enjoy the rustic ambiance.

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