A small, locally owned chain of tapas restaurants and bars, Ceviche has five locations clustered around Florida, and the Orlando branch is one of the liveliest. Its gorgeous interior decor, which features an original ceiling from a 16th-century abbey and dark, wooden elements, is reminiscent of an authentic dining establishment in the heart of Spain – a sensation only heightened by Ceviche’s live music and dance program. The extensive menu reveals numerous Spanish and Latin American-style options. Among these, the eponymous ceviche is one of the favorites; consisting of raw fish cured in a lime juice and spiced with chili peppers, this popular dish is a must-try for a real taste of Peruvian cuisine. Alternatively, drop by for Tapas Tuesday, a cheap and cheerful affair of tapas and heady sangria.
There aren’t many good food options around Sand Lake Road, the tourist-y strip near Universal Studios. However, Rocco’s Tacos and Tequila Bar is trying to change that. There’s nothing mind blowing going on here, but the tacos, Texas-style queso, and specialties like chile rellenos and mole poblano are all better than anything else in the area. They also have a great late-night menu for when you get hungry again after sampling from their wall of tequila, which includes more than 400 varieties.
Perhaps you are someone who thinks honey is just honey. Or tea is just tea. Or olive oil is just olive oil. Or water is just water. Or a cigar is just a cigar. Or mustard is just mustard. If so, you’re likely skeptical of a honey sommelier, a tea sommelier, an olive oil sommelier, a water sommelier, a cigar sommelier or a mustard sommelier. But over the past several years, there’s been a creeping wine-ification in every realm of gourmet endeavor. Now, in our era of hyper-credentialism, there’s almost no sphere of connoisseurship without a knowledgeable, certified taste expert, someone who’s completed serious coursework and passed an exam. A two-day tea sommelier certification course (followed by eight weeks of home study) from the International Tea Masters Association costs $1,475. A six-day olive oil sommelier certification program at the International Culinary Center in New York costs $2,800. A nine-day water sommelier certification program at the Doemens Academy in Germany costs $2,600 (travel not included).
Lake Nona’s burgeoning food and beverage scene continues to progress and this pizza joint with showcase brewery by the Tavistock Restaurant Collection (who also operate Lake Nona’s Canvas and Chroma restaurants) is one luring downtowners to the airport-area enclave. With head brewer Marco Reyna tapping 12 sudsy creations, there’s no shortage of pie-pairing quaffs. Jason Bergeron (who also serves as executive chef of Canvas and Chroma) fires up pizzas in two gorgeous wood-burning ovens – pizzas like the infernal “Pepperoni Picante” and the “Awesome Saus!” with sausage and elephant garlic. It’s one worth riding the bus to Lake Nona town for.
“I took that exam while I was on the toilet,” says the other. Both eagerly await the USACM’s next-level exam, a more sophisticated test of their knowledge, to become a “Certified Pommelier” — a higher designation, even though I’ve already been calling myself a “pommelier.” The first sitting of this new exam will happen in February at CiderCon in Chicago. There are also plans for a Level 3 and 4.
This intimate dining experience just a few miles away from Downtown Orlando has received heaps of praise over the last few years, recognized by several regional and national awards. This dining establishment welcomes an ever-changing lineup of chefs, and with that comes a regularly altered menu, so you never really know what’s going to be served. However, the three-course set menu usually features three or course choices per course, so even the fussiest of eaters should be able to find something they can enjoy. Prices without wine or service start at $55 for the set menu.
The city’s first permanent food truck park, modeled after the ones in Portland, Oregon, not only brings five mobile food vendors hawking poke, empanadas, Brazilian-style skewered meats, Vietnamese-Korean fare and a smorgasbord of Scandinavian delights, but the 10,400-square-foot outdoor venue in the Milk District sports an indoor bar with 15 taps featuring a rotating lineup of beers, ciders, wines, and cold-brew coffee. Some notable pairings: Playalinda Brewing’s Robonaut Red Ale paired with Vinny & Kory’s bibimbap to start, while Adao Gourmet’s dulce de leche empanadas chased with Destihl Brewery’s Russian Imperial Stout makes an indulgent capper.
Then I learn about the American Cheese Society’s T.A.S.T.E. Test, which launched in the summer of 2018. Passing this exam will confer the title of Certified Cheese Sensory Evaluator (cheese sommeliers don’t call themselves sommeliers). Cheese feels like something I can handle. I’d recently spent time on assignment for The Washington Post in Bra, Italy, reporting from the Slow Food cheese event, tasting from among 300 cheesemakers from 50 countries. The founder of Slow Food declared the event to be “the beating heart of cheese” and those of us attending the “cheese intelligentsia.” Well, as a member of the cheese intelligentsia, surely I can pass the T.A.S.T.E. Test.
Owners Marshall Phanthachit and Kevin Phanhvilay aren’t shy about displaying the full spectrum of flavors of Laotian cuisine at their popular Mills 50 eatery. The sweet, the spicy, the fishy and the fermented are presented in street snack form and, best of all, the whole menu can be had for around $65. Scooping wee balls of sticky rice in one hand then dipping it into jaew mak len (a charred tomato paste) or jaew bong (sweet chili paste with pork skin) is digital dining at its finest. Lemongrass pork sausage, sesame beef jerky and pork tapioca dumplings shouldn’t be overlooked. The fearless can test their fortitude with the funky, fermented, fishy quintessence of thum maak thang, a spicy cucumber salad.
Hot sauce connoisseurship has changed over the past decade. “Hot sauce used to be a macho thing,” he says. “Fifteen, 20 years ago, I call that the Insanity Era. There was this arms race.” Now, he sees more people willing to spend more money than they would on a basic bottle of Tabasco. “When people get that education, they feel more confident investing in better hot sauce,” he says. “It’s just like with wine. Someone’s not going to buy a $200 bottle without some education.”
If you aren't incorporating your Instant Pot into your morning routine (or, you know, a Saturday morning at least!), you simply aren't reaching its full potential. The Internet's favorite multi-cooker grants all the benefits of a top-notch homemade breakfast in a fraction of the time, all while making a much smaller mess. At least set aside 10 minutes for your own personal batch of steel-cut oats—once you've had a bowl, you'll never turn back to the microwavable stuff again.
While Orlando is in the south, it’s not really a Southern city. If you’re looking for some proper Southern food though, you can find it at The Coop in Winter Park. This place specializes in fried chicken, which you should definitely get, but they also serve po’boys, shrimp and grits, and plenty of traditional sides, if a bucket of chicken isn’t what you’re after. They also serve breakfast seven days a week, which includes classics like chicken and waffles and biscuits with gravy. Just make sure to schedule a nap for afterwards if you stop by.
Every gourmet food gift basket is filled with the highest quality, delicious foods you’ve loved year after year. Plus, there’s always new and exciting flavors to try to find the perfect complement to your classic favorites. From summer sausage, to cheese, sweets, and even specialty meats, our unique food gifts will delight everyone on your gift list!
Landlocked Central Florida is not Italy, but when you want to temporarily forget that, go to Prato. This always-packed restaurant in Winter Park serves modern Italian food, like mustard spaghetti cacio e pepe and a variety of wood-fired pizzas, and has retractable doors and a patio, which almost makes it feel like you’re getting a nice breeze from the Mediterranean. There’s always a wait if you don’t make a reservation, but just grab a drink at the bar and start debating with your friends about how many pastas to order in the meantime.
Per the name, The Guesthouse looks and feels like the pool house of someone’s friend who lives in a much cooler neighborhood than you, and will make you wonder, “How can I make my apartment look more like this?” It’s all of this, plus the excellent cocktails, that makes this spot in Mills 50 one of the most popular new bars in the city. You can stop by during their daily Happy Hour from 4-8pm, which includes everything on the menu for half off, and if you want to make a night out of coming here, a few food trucks park outside of The Guesthouse most nights of the week, too.
Most taste-expert programs are modeled, in some fashion, on the venerable wine sommelier certifications; none have deviated radically from these. The term “sommelier” technically means a “wine waiter” or “wine steward,” a restaurant position dating to 18th-century France. “My purist definition of a sommelier is someone who works in hospitality, who serves wine in a restaurant,” said David Wrigley, international development manager of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, a London-based accreditation organization. I spoke with Wrigley last summer in Washington at an event called SommCon. There, the WSET presented its program to potential students alongside three rival organizations: the Society of Wine Educators, the Institute of Masters of Wine, and the Court of Master Sommeliers, the last being the subject of the popular documentary “Somm” and sequels. All of these programs offer a ladder of advancing levels, from introductory through master, increasing in price and commitment. WSET Level 1, for example, begins at just under $400 for six hours of course study, rising to Level 4. Level 4 alone takes up to 18 months and 600 hours of study to complete and costs more than $4,000 — and that cost can easily double as thousands more are spent on travel and acquiring bottles to taste. The WSET’s enrollment in the United States grew by 24 percent in 2017-2018. It now has more than 14,000 students, and worldwide there are more than 94,000.
Indeed, what the rise of specialized taste education, the cult of sensory analysis, and the wine-ification of everything means is that taste is becoming more and more codified all the time. There are good tastes and bad tastes; not only that, there’s a growing caste of gatekeepers in every field who are keeping score on what tastes great, middling and flawed. Maybe this is what morality or philosophy looks like in an increasingly post-religious, post-intellectual, materialistic United States. We are a people in need of an authority, a higher voice, some guidance — even if it comes from behind the cheese counter. Maybe, for many affluent Americans, the sommeliers of everything represent something shaman-like. Listen to me. I am your one true sommelier.