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Downtown Orlando and wine

18 Aug

Most tourists don’t even know Orlando has a vibrant downtown with unique stores and a Central Park.

After a quick stop at the Morse Museum showcasing a Louis Tiffany collection, we were pleasantly surprised with our brief stroll through picturesque Park Avenue in Winter Park – Orlando’s own “Rodeo Drive” – 10 tree-lined streets of stores.

Some of the attractions include Gourmet Temptation, The Cheese Shop, Tuni, John Craig, Williams Sonoma and Spice Shop.

We were wooed at the Wine Room – a unique wine bar and deli with more than 150 wines on a tap-system that we used with smart cards.


Loud but tasty – that’s life at the Burro

17 Sep

A potent margarita with a side of skull, hot and sweet crispy pork belly, spicy Chingon cucumbers, a perfectly grilled yet juicy street cart style half chicken, and the three-cheese and meat baked fundido.  These are some of my favorite dishes off the dinner menu at at The Painted Burro Mexican kitchen and tequila bar.

Chef- owner Joe Cassinelli of Posto features a unique seasonal menu highlighting the diverse regional cuisines of Latin America from delicious moles and 10 types of tacos to  a mind boggling list of 100 craft tequilas.

He is specially proud of the street foods he found throughout his travels that he has incorporated in the menu, like the cholo corn and street cart chicken.

As a huge chicken snob – I truly believe Americans don’t know how to cook chicken – this is one of few restaurants I’ve found in the area that cooks a mean one – like the chicken at Machu Picchu Charcoal Chicken and Grill in Union Square, or the pan roasted boneless half chicken at Highland Kitchen. I highly recommend any of these if you’re in the mood for chicken that isn’t boiled, rubbery or just plain tasteless.

The restaurant opened in March by jazzing up the old Gargoyles space, putting the bar up against the window and opening it up for a bigger dining space with some heavy old refurbished wood furniture.

After six months of popularity but complaints about the noise level, they recently added some sound proofing that has definitely improved the casual and funky atmosphere.

Still, expect to raise your voice – it kinda goes with the mood of the place and honestly, the food is so good, you won’t mind anything. I’m yet to order something I didn’t find amazing. Especially the sweet endings like the mango-jalapeno popsicles – they have special ones daily, so ask.

The Painted Burro
219 Elm St., Davis Square
Somerville, MA
P:  617.776.0005
Hours: 5 p.m. – 1 a.m.

Somerville seizes a sausage smackdown

2 Apr

What happens when you pitch two area chefs in a food fight to create the best sausage bar dish? Only good things.

This one involved Highland Kitchen‘s Rob Morotto’s slider against East Coast Grill‘s Jason Heard’s banh mi.

I had mixed feelings going in since I love both restaurants but guess who won (the headline’s a dead giveaway, I know)? Read my delicious story in the Journal to find out – and have some sausage handy. It will make you crave some:

When two chefs are asked to come up with the perfect stadium snack using sausage, it can smoke up a storm. The steamy competition pitched aioli against mustard, sausage bites against sausage patties, and onion against jicama until the smooth slider won over the delicate banh mi at the Parlor Sports Tuesday Night Fight by popular vote…

This was hosted at the newly opened Parlor Sports, a cozy sports bar by the owners of Trina’s Starlite, adjoining the larger bar/restaurant in Inman Square. It’s a great place for local sports fans to watch games on eight flat screen TV’s.

Parlor Sports
1 Beacon St.
Somerville, MA 02143
(617) 576-0231
M-F: 6 pm – 12 am
Sat-Sun: 12 pm – 12 am

Lucia serves up mouthwatering polenta specials

23 Mar

Despite great restaurants, good cafes and delicious food, there’s one thing the North End doesn’t have and Owner Donato Frattaroli plans to bring it to Lucia Ristorate. The idea is for a group of people to sit around a communal table and enjoy a special theme dinner.

At an invitees-only party for media showcasing the idea, the good owner and Chef Pino Maffeo hosted a group of 12 at a unique two-hour long polenta party, Italian style with lots of wine, jokes and merriment.

From the traditional antipasto featuring the tenderest of prosciutto to the juiciest lamb shank over a creamy polenta, it was a unique experience diners would definitely pay for.

Our journey started with the antipasto plate featuring a smoky marinated eggplant and roasted peppers next to the traditional meat and cheese – all exceptionally fresh and tasty.

The bruschetta came next – one with a bright green broccoli rabe and another with toasted  mushrooms that I could’ve eaten a dozen of.

I had mixed feelings about an Asian-inspred shrimp dish with a tangy salty and sweet  glaze that I found  overpowering. I think a simple Italian olive oil base would have brought out the flavor of the high quality shrimp more.

A visit to the kitchen a flight below showed us the chef cooking a large pot of polenta in a surprisingly clean and spacious kitchen. The chef said they are one of few restaurants to have so much space and pointed to the two extra rooms they use for functions, aside from the main dining space.

Then came the polenta dishes and any doubts or self control vanished as we dug into a rich rabbit and truffle dish, a braised lamb shank so tender that it didn’t need a knife, lip-smacking pork riblets with a red sauce that must have simmered for days to reach that flavor and color. Continue reading

Guten Appetit – all the way from Germany

24 Feb

Jennifer Brown sent in this delectable piece on German food after her final college semester abroad in Dresden as an exchange student. This is a photo of her with a German making spaetzle.

Germany is a country known for its beer, politics, eco-friendly ways, and its food. The general characteristics given to German food are “thick,” “buttery,” and “meaty”–words describing recipes that can date back to several generations within families. Food in Germany is prepared fresh and thoughtfully; minute-ready items are seldom preferred and refrigerators are smaller than American standards in order to promote the frequent, fresh buying of ingredients. Additionally, Germans seek out local meat, dairy, and baked goods–towns often have numerous local butchers, farms, and bakeries that daily serve their own delicacies.

Considering my experience with the country and its delectable edibles, the following is a series of specialties that I highly recommend (in alphabetical order):

Bretzel – Behold the famous bretzel! Bretzel is German for “pretzel.” Bretzels are eaten at all times of the day in Germany. People cut them in half and butter them for breakfast, or they pack them away to nibble on with lunch, or they have one while they’re eating a small dinner or at an evening beer garden. My German friends generally agree that the best bretzels are in Bayern (the south-eastern region of Germany). In Bayern, Germans eat a bretzel with a white sausage and mustard, alongside a tall hefeweizen in the morning. Venture to the prominent Viktualienmarkt on an early morning in Munich to make an order!

Gluehwein – A German version of mulled wine, gluehwein is a longstanding wintry tradition in Germany. It’s a main feature at Christmas markets throughout the country, and people make it in the warmth of their homes as well. Red wine is the traditional wine used for the recipes, but white wine has been substituted in recent years. The wine used is typically a cheaper wine that grants low prices for merchants and consumers alike. Spices like cinnamon and anise are added to the wine and mixed with sugar. Drinks like gluehwein make Germany’s brutal winters more bearable.

Kartoffeln mit Quark – A long-time money saver in Germany: potatoes and curd cheese. The potatoes are boiled and usually skinned, and the cheese can be mixed with various herbs. The result is most similar to the American baked potato, however Americans don’t really have quark in their diet; the thick, milky cheese is hard to describe, with a slight sour-cream taste that melts with the hot potatoes. While trying this dish, be sure to mash up the potatoes with a fork so they can really blend with the quark. Continue reading

A tasty boob job with Pilsbury

8 Nov

In celebration of Breast Cancer Month in October, a blogger at New England Bites went shopping and baking.

What a boob! I can’t believe that I neglected to put something up on New England Bites to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness month. I guess it slipped my mammary. Anyhoo, better seven days late than never, I decided to bake a delicious strawberry cake from Pillsbury topped with frosting bosoms. What better way to celebrate?

She used this:

to make this:

THE VERDICT: Double d-licious! The cake was very moist due to the cup of pudding in the mix (thanks Pillsbury). The strawberry frosting titillated our senses and the boobs – well – they just gave the cake an extra lift. The best thing about making this cake is that you can invite your bosom buddy to come over and join in the fun. We are tickled pink to have made this for our fans, and bravo to me for being able to sculpt a pair of knockers out of cupcake icing.

As Mom says: “Don’t be a mess; self-examine your chest!”