Located just a block from Lake Eola in Thornton Park, Soco is one of the best places in Orlando to spend an afternoon eating and drinking outside. This place serves high-end comfort food, like grilled meatloaf with lobster mash potatoes, Southern fried quail and waffles, and a weekly TV dinner special that yes, gets served on an actual tray covered in foil. Drinks-wise, they have a huge wine list, along with plenty of cocktail and beer options. When you want to pretend like you don’t have responsibilities, come to Soco for a long weekend brunch or to spend the entire day on a patio.
Why go: The experience starts with a stroll down Park Avenue, Orlando’s European-looking, cobblestoned street. The walk sets the scene for a slow-paced Parisian evening. Through the restaurant’s doors is a classic, intimate dining room with white linen tables set for no more than four people. Dishes are prepared in classic French style, paired with fine wine that changes often and perfectly complements the European flavors presented by the chef.
Despite my lack of the requisite hours, Bauer agrees to let me sit for the three-hour exam, held in a hotel ballroom in Pittsburgh during the society’s annual conference. I arrive along with 50 other candidates and am shown to my table, which has a clipboard of evaluation sheets for a dozen categories of cheese — from soft-ripened to cheddars to blue mold to goat cheese to washed rind — as well as cups of aroma samples, unidentified liquids marked A to J that I will have to sniff and identify blind. The proctor tells us there are to be no photos, and no posting or sharing on social media. “Though there’s not much in your phone that can help you now,” he says. Along the back wall of the ballroom are a team of cheesemongers cutting samples, where we will go to get our cheeses to evaluate.

Considering that the last time I took a hard science class was when I received a C-plus in high school chemistry, believe me when I tell you I had trouble keeping up. Luckily, the exam we will take in a few weeks — to receive our course certificates — will be open-notebook, and we are provided a glossary and all the pages of Jacobsen’s PowerPoint presentation.

Hi Evi 🙂 As an entree, it serves about 6 people, so you’ll have to make some adjustments to the recipe to get it to serve that many people. There’s no way it’ll all fit in one pot, so you’ll more than likely have to have it going in various pots. I’ve never made the recipe for that many people, so I can’t say for certain how it’ll hold up by increasing it that much.


Since I just spent a year writing a book about cider, the first credential I seek out is to become a Certified Cider Professional (or CCP), a brand-new professional title created by the United States Association of Cider Makers. I attended an introductory seminar on the CCP Level 1 exam at CiderCon in Baltimore in the winter of 2018. The following summer, one afternoon on a whim — without any further study — I decide to log in to the cider association website, pay $75 and take the exam. There are 60 questions on apple history, apple classifications and genetics, cidermaking techniques, styles of cider, detecting flaws, and food pairings with cider. I submit my answers, then find out instantaneously that I’ve gotten 89 percent correct — a passing grade. It has taken me 37 minutes 47 seconds to complete the exam, which includes the interruption of a 15-minute work call. I am now proudly a Level 1 Certified Cider Professional — a cider sommelier. I receive a felt CCP patch in the mail — one that I might have proudly ironed onto my acid-washed jean jacket back in the ’80s. Within months, I am teaching cider classes to candidates who also hope to pass the CCP Level 1 test.
When I move to the evaluation portion, however, I immediately realize I am in way over my head. Any hubris I had cracks when I pop my first sample, a soft-ripened cheese, into my mouth. I chew. It just tastes like … soft cheese. I am supposed to evaluate this based on 70 characteristics and flaws in four categories (appearance, aroma, texture and flavor). And not just the presence of, say, a nutty or herbal aroma or an animal or grassy flavor, but “much too little,” “too little,” “just about right,” “too much” or “much too much.” At the table in front of me I see another candidate spit into a bucket. Wait a minute! I think. Are we supposed to spit cheese when we taste it, like wine? I spit my soft-ripened cheese into the bucket on my table (which is gross, to be honest). Still, I gamely trudge on for almost three hours. When I get to the evaluation sheet for Emmental-style (i.e., Swiss) cheese, there is a category for “Eye Development,” with characteristics such as blind, underset, irregular and dead/dull eyes. So cheese has eyes? When I approach the cheesemongers for a sample of cheddar, I steal a glance at the clipboard of a bearded guy in a Hawaiian shirt and Birkenstocks standing next to me. He marks “seamy” on one of his score sheets. What does it mean to have a seamy cheese? I am so out of my league, I don’t even know what I don’t know.
With an ever-changing selection, you’re sure to find something delicious for even the pickiest eaters in your household. Browse our breakfast foods, such as flaky croissants and sweet morning treats. Wake up to the alluring scent of an easy-to-prepare and easy-to-enjoy gourmet food item. We also offer ready-to-enjoy side dishes that can give a whole new spin to your favorite meal. Peruse food from Cheryl’s, Harry London, Authentic Gourmet, Kansas City Steak Company, and Corky's. You'll find food such as Smithfield hams and delicious faves from other well-known names in premium food, such as Lobster Gram.
That is certainly true — and that’s why “education” becomes a slippery term in the world of taste. The sommelier’s job is to monetize the educated palate. In wine, that might mean persuading someone to upgrade from a bottle that’s $30 on a list to one that’s $50. The cheese sommelier might try to sell a customer on a more expensive artisan, aged Gouda rather than the basic Gouda in red wax. For the honey sommelier, it may be about persuading someone to upgrade their $4 honey in a 12-ounce plastic bear to a buckwheat honey that’s $12 for four ounces. For the mustard sommelier, it’s about explaining why you’d want to pay for real Dijon mustard and not the cheap imitations you find in the supermarket.
Variety, in both cuisine and atmosphere, characterizes Orlando dining. Fun, casual meals and reliable chain restaurants fill the bill for many hungry tourists. Kids especially relish character breakfasts at Disney's Contemporary Resort and dinners at Universal's three resorts, where folks dine in good company – alongside Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Scooby Doo, and Curious George. The International Drive and Sand Lake Road areas feature a number of chain favorites that make good stand-bys, and themed eateries abound as well, including the jungle-like Rainforest Café and the Nascar Café. For upscale dining, restaurants like Atlantis at SeaWorld's Renaissance Resort and Victoria and Albert's at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort serve fresh seafood and impeccable American Continental cuisine. Plus, Disney's Lake Buena Vista area, EPCOT, Downtown Disney, and Universal Studios CityWalk promise eateries for all appetites and price ranges. Even celebrity chefs get in on the action: Emeril's features Continental cuisine with a Cajun kick. And if you're in downtown Orlando, take advantage of dining gems like Manuel's on the Twenty-Eighth, located atop the Nations Bank building. Suave, monied Winter Park also features superb restaurants, including the fashionable Park Plaza Gardens.
Chef Xiong ‘Tiger’ Tang impressed as the executive chef of Zen at the Omni Orlando Resort, but at his West Colonial Drive (Orlando’s unofficial Chinatown) restaurant, he downright dazzles with wickedly infernal dishes highlighting the cuisine from Sichuan Province, the capital Chengdu in particular. A more gratifying lobster – hacked, reassembled, then adorned with an alluring mix of chilies, peppercorns, garlic and cilantro – won’t be found in this town, while lamb sautéed in hot pepper sauce wrapped in tinfoil, and a Chongqing-style hotpot with head-on shrimp, tripe, beef and fried fish mixed with crunchy lotus root and cauliflower are electrifying choices for the capsicum-deprived.
Stock your shelves and storage containers with our spices and seasonings, from classic American rubs to international spices and salts. Infuse every dish with flavor with a little help from our vast variety of condiments and sauces. From gourmet mustards and fine oils and vinegars to zesty barbeque sauces and spicy hot sauces, we have something to spread, dip or drizzle on all of your favorite foods.
When I move to the evaluation portion, however, I immediately realize I am in way over my head. Any hubris I had cracks when I pop my first sample, a soft-ripened cheese, into my mouth. I chew. It just tastes like … soft cheese. I am supposed to evaluate this based on 70 characteristics and flaws in four categories (appearance, aroma, texture and flavor). And not just the presence of, say, a nutty or herbal aroma or an animal or grassy flavor, but “much too little,” “too little,” “just about right,” “too much” or “much too much.” At the table in front of me I see another candidate spit into a bucket. Wait a minute! I think. Are we supposed to spit cheese when we taste it, like wine? I spit my soft-ripened cheese into the bucket on my table (which is gross, to be honest). Still, I gamely trudge on for almost three hours. When I get to the evaluation sheet for Emmental-style (i.e., Swiss) cheese, there is a category for “Eye Development,” with characteristics such as blind, underset, irregular and dead/dull eyes. So cheese has eyes? When I approach the cheesemongers for a sample of cheddar, I steal a glance at the clipboard of a bearded guy in a Hawaiian shirt and Birkenstocks standing next to me. He marks “seamy” on one of his score sheets. What does it mean to have a seamy cheese? I am so out of my league, I don’t even know what I don’t know.
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