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.
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.
Marchese tells me that when she detects a metallic taste in the honey, she knows the beekeeper has likely used rusty equipment. When she tastes too much smoky flavor, she knows the honey came from an inexperienced beekeeper who uses too much smoke because he’s afraid of bees. Which is to say Marchese’s palate is so finely tuned that she can literally taste the beekeeper’s fear in a smear of honey.
This highly-rated restaurant off Sand lake Road bases its menu around fresh, seasonal produce (hence the name), and presents a nice mix of indoor and alfresco seating, with handsome views outback stretching across the adjacent lake. Seasons 52 also have an oak-fire grill and brick oven onsite, helping to bring out the natural flavors, as well as keep things healthy. Recommended dishes to try are the wood-grilled pork tenderloin, oak-grilled rack of lamb, Asian-glazed Chilean Sea Bass and duck wing ‘lollipops’. There’s also a sturdy lineup of local craft ales and international wines.
Prato is an upscale enough venue in which to celebrate a landmark anniversary or well-deserved promotion but also casual enough to bring the (well-behaved, please) kids for some wonderfully crispy pizza from the wood-burning oven and sandwiches like the BLT panini or the excellent heirloom eggplant version. Exposed brick, twinkly lights and some patio seating on Park Avenue give the place a cosmopolitan feel. Prato's menu pulls on classic Italian for inspiration but pays due diligence to culinary evolution, allowing for creativity and some turns that might surprise you. Half-portions on most of the pastas allow for a more authentic Italian experience (pastas are often served in small portions before entrees in the Old Country) and offer more opportunities to share and sample.
Food might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Orlando. Maybe it’s the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and wondering if they have a wandmaker on-site. Or maybe it’s how Orlando mysteriously ended up with an NBA team. But as the city continues to grow, so does the local food scene, and regardless of how much time you’ve spent here, it can be tough to keep track of where to eat and drink. Luckily, that’s where we come in.
Once you hit day three of a convention or a conference, you’re going to want to eat something that doesn’t weigh you down as you sit through four more hours of back to back powerpoint presentations. During your next break, head to Da Kine Poke. This former food truck now has food stalls at both downtown’s Market on Magnolia and at The Local Butcher and Market in Winter Park. There are a few signature bowls on the menu, or you can make your own, with a variety of fresh fish, vegetables, sauces, condiments, and bases to choose from.
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.
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After that, we move hotter. A yellow one from Scotch bonnet peppers that’s about a six, a delicious Barbados-style pepper sauce made with mustard and having a molasses-like taste, a barbecue-style sauce from San Antonio made with ancho and morita peppers, a spicy peanut butter made from a traditional Haitian recipe, and a floral, fruity habanero sauce from Japan made with Citra hops and a bit of mango. After a half-dozen sauces, my palate becomes pretty fatigued. “If you push yourself past your comfort level, your brain’s not going to care about the taste,” Chaimberg says.