In 2000, Marchese left a career as an illustrator and product designer in New York, moved to Connecticut and took up beekeeping. “This whole world opened up to me,” she says. “I started to see honey as a parallel to wine.” She worked for a time at a wine distributor and began going to honey festivals, particularly in Italy, where honey is a much bigger deal. She also began taking honey courses and eventually moved to the Italian beekeeping institute in Bologna for advanced certification. Four years ago, she became a member of the Italian National Register of Experts in the Sensory Analysis of Honey — the first American to be accepted.
Prato’s style of cooking can be defined as classic Italian with an emphasis on local ingredients. This, coupled with the restaurant’s sleek wood-and-brick decor, makes for a modern dining experience with a cool, rustic vibe. A signature special beloved by locals is the Widowmaker pizza, which is topped with caciocavallo cheese, romesco, fennel sausage and an egg in the center. A small yet eclectic selection of pastas and secondi awaits, where dishes change seasonally – and daily, depending what fresh ingredients are available. Chef Brandon McGlamery, who is also responsible for the success of the hugely popular Luma on Park, located a few steps down Park Avenue, reassures that his restaurants ‘stick to seasonally directed and ingredient-driven as our motto’.
Now, we work our way through what she calls “single-origin” honeys: a straw-colored, delicate acacia honey from Bulgaria; a smooth, surprisingly savory orange blossom honey from Florida; a pleasantly strange, brick-colored honey from Maine blueberry blossoms, with complex aromas of cheese and tomato paste and flavors from dried fruit to umami. “This is not your clover honey from a teddy bear,” Marchese says. “That honey in the teddy bear is just sugar water.”
Gourmet restaurants prepare dishes from the highest quality ingredients with impeccable technique. They can serve food that challenges the palate or offers a twist from a traditional dish. For example, a gourmet mac and cheese may use Gruyere, a cheese that is almost exclusively made in France and Switzerland. A beef dish such as crab-stuffed filet mignon with whiskey peppercorn sauce is gourmet because the sauce and stuffing are unique and challenge the taste of filet mignon on its own.
While most of the restaurants here might eat into your vacation budget, they’re all well worth it if you're looking for anextra special dining experience. From fine diners located in the city’s most famous theme park resorts, to authentic smoke houses in the suburbs where you might have to queue outside on the weekend to get a seat, check out our full list of Orlando’s best restaurants below.
Humbled by my failure of the American Cheese Society’s T.A.S.T.E. exam three months earlier, I decide to set my sights lower and start my cheese education at the beginning. I pay $850 to attend a three-day, in-depth Cheese Boot Camp at Murray’s Cheese in New York’s Greenwich Village. The course begins on a Friday evening, with unlimited wine being poured. About two dozen students from all across the country crowd into an upstairs classroom. A number of people work in the cheese business, in sales or production, and some are opening their own cheese shops. There is one Master of Wine, a few chefs and one couple who tell all of us that they just love cheese so much that they’re spending their wedding anniversary at Cheese Boot Camp.
MEAT. It's what's for dinner (and breakfast, brunch and lunch) at this Mills 50 mecca of all things carnivorous. Grass-fed beef, pastured pork, goat, lamb, eggs, you name it - all of it locally sourced - is what goes into dishes like the Sloppy Jehosephat (loose beef and cheddar on a French roll), the arugula-and-cheddar-laden Crushinator breakfast sammich ("No, Pa! I love him!") and a medium-rare burger that the whole of Orlando's meat-eating community has unanimously raved about. Orlando Meats is open for all three squares; the breakfast menu features some creative spins on traditional offerings, but serious carnivores can order up that signature burger at 8 am if their lovingly clogged hearts so desire. Other delights, including sippable beef or chicken bone broth and house-made doughnuts, are also worth the visit.
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.