For a long time, it didn’t seem to matter, but over the past few years, when I published or taught, people curiously began to assume I had some sort of certification and seemed surprised when I revealed I did not. As I finished my third drinks book, I started to feel a twinge of impostor syndrome. I was a sommelier of nothing. Perhaps I needed a few certifications to keep pace with the crowd.
It should immediately be noted, the average main course price is not $59; that's the cost of your entire, impeccable three-course meal. This intimate room inside the Winter Garden's historic Edgewater Hotel is a sorta-kinda best-kept-secret in Orlando. It has made everyone's list, from local publications to Zagat's Top Restaurants in America, but its size and location (out in Winter Garden; about 15 miles west of downtown Orlando) has allowed it to keep some of its clandestine buzz, despite being open several years. Menus shift with fresh ingredients but never disappoint. Chef's Table is a special-occasion delight. Turn your cell phone off; leave the kids at home. Enjoy.
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.
The buzz around this lively two-story wine bar in Disney Springs (apart from it being the only one run by an actual master sommelier – George Miliotes) is the 130 wines available by the glass and (gasp!) by the ounce. Patrons should pay particular attention to “George’s Finds” – a themed and changing selection of wines (currently Spanish vintages) – as well as “Outstanding by the Ounce” which lists a one-ounce sip of a 1996 Chateau Margaux for a paltry $100. The menu, by the way, is anything but an afterthought – porchetta-spiced pork cheeks, grilled whole Greek sea bass and a “Chocolate Experience” are proof positive. And, yeah, it is worth braving the tourist hordes for.
Chatham's has been wowing Orlando's fans of fine dining since 1988, an impressive feat for any restaurant these days, and that's likely due to a well executed combination of ambiance, service and culinary excellence. From lump Cajun crab cakes to filet mignon, Florida grouper to rack of lamb, the menu is not extensive, but laden with interesting spins on classic dishes. Whatever it is, it keeps diners coming back for special nights out. Attentive but unintrusive service allows diners to enjoy their meals quiety, intimately, and often with live piano accompaniment. Chatham's is an excellent choice for client dinners, as well, but when it comes to special occasions, birthdays, anniversaries and other potentially romantic occasions, it's an ultra-reliable go-to.
“We want to get beyond ‘yummy’ and ‘delicious,’ ” says instructor Caitlin O’Neill, a Certified Cheese Professional. The first step we take is to plug our noses — the same sensory-analysis exercise we did in my honey-tasting instruction. We place a piece of mozzarella on our tongues, which at first simply feels gooey and salty, and then a rush of smoky, buttery flavor comes on once I unplug my nose. We learn the basics of cheesemaking and the differences between the milks of cows, goats, sheep and water buffalo (which is “almost the texture of white paint”). We taste 15 cheeses, each of which represents a specific category: fresh, bloomy, washed, Alpine, Gouda, uncooked, thistle, cheddar, grana, blue. As O’Neill explains each category, I start to feel ridiculous for ever thinking I could have skipped this foundational step in my cheese education before sitting for an advanced exam.
With its gorgeous, luxurious decor, marble features and portfolio of culinary accomplishment, Victoria & Albert’s is nothing short of magical – its location in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa only confirming this status as a fairytale destination. Modern American cuisine combined with the highest quality ingredients from around the world – including Italian truffles and Japanese beef – gives rise to mouthwatering specials. These include the Colorado bison served with caraway seed vinaigrette, or the Alaskan king crab ‘jar’ with Siberian caviar. It’s no wonder that Chef Hunnel and his team have received nothing but rave reviews and top awards, including the AAA’s prestigious Five Diamond Award. Jackets are required, so dress up rather than down for a dinner at this classy establishment.
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).
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.
Norman Van Aken is a culinary legend and a proud adopted Floridian, which plays nicely into delicious and often Latin-, Caribbean- and even Key West-infused fare. Sit outside and enjoy spectacular views of lakes, gardens and the Ritz-Carlton's expansive, green golf course or dine in climate-controlled majesty – vaulted ceilings and Italianate windows help bring that outside essence in. Tapas like Key West shrimp ceviche or delicate caviar may prime your palate for creamy cracked conch chowder or rhum and pepper painted Florida black grouper. Norman's is, of course, not a one-dollar-sign venue, but for vacationers and those looking for a sumptuous meal out, few venues are as resplendent as the Ritz-Carlton, and few restaurants could match it as well as Norman's.
Searched for a recipe for stuff I had in the kitchen so I didnt have to go to the store. I came across this recipe. I only had a can of Hunts Spagetti Sauce in the cupboard so I was worried how it would turn out (we prefer Ragu). I shouldnt have worried because it turned out delicious!! I added a little more of the seasonings and a bit of sugar to the sauce. So yummy and kid approved. Thank you for a great easy meal!!
A gourmet kitchen will have professional-grade appliances and fixtures, often conveniently arranged for ease of food preparation. For example, it may have a six-burner gas stovetop and dual ovens plus a warming drawer, with a powerful ventilating hood and a pot-filler faucet over the range. The cabinetry can provide convenient storage for appliances, tools, and pantry items. A gourmet kitchen also has enough counter space for food preparation tasks.
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.
Orlando is about much more than its famous theme parks and the chain restaurants that spill out in their shadows. Orlando is a city of diverse denizens, historic neighborhoods, all-encompassing things to do, nightlife, parks and them some—especially when it comes to food. When in town, you (or rather, your tastebuds) will be awestruck by food trucks and hole-in-the-wall eateries showcasing international foods; bistros and cafes creating seasonal fusion fare; fishmongers slinging seafood straight from Florida’s shores and chefs crafting with ingredients from their very own gardens. It’s inside Orlando’s kitchens that you’ll start to feel the city’s character, whether dining at a fancy hotel or an anonymous-looking eatery. So get ready to truly get to know the City Beautiful while dining at the best (independent) restaurants in Orlando.
The world of cigars is easily as complex as whiskey or cheese or chocolate, but it faces an obvious challenge. “Our industry suffers from a stigma,” Armenteros says. “We don’t have any of the prestige of wine or Scotch, yet drinking those are just as dangerous.” Because of this, the cigar consumer is quite different from those of other gourmet products. “The cigar smoker is a very independent-minded person,” he says. “It takes a certain individualism. You need to have, let’s say, some balls to smoke a cigar. This type of person has strong opinions. We work with a lot of strong characters in this business.” Armenteros believes an educated, certified expert helps add a level of sophistication.
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.