“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.

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.


Truffles are a rare form of fungus similar to mushrooms. Their rich and pungent flavor is unlike any other food in the world as Truffles are considered the diamond of the kitchen. Available in White and Black varieties, Truffles are a high demand Gourmet Food, due to their relative scarcity, labor intensive harvest process, resistance to cultivation and short growing season.
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.
If there’s one place you should make a point to have brunch at in Orlando, it’s Se7en Bites Bake Shop in the Milk District. Sure, there will be a line out the door whenever you go, but it moves quickly and will give you plenty of time to decide between things like the Se7en Benedict, which is topped with fried green tomatoes and peppercorn hollandaise, and the bacon cornbread waffles. They also have a full lunch menu, plenty of cakes and pastries, and beer and wine, which means you can basically spend an entire afternoon here if you want.
Tobacconist University is run in a cigar shop called A Little Taste of Cuba in downtown Princeton, N.J., in the shadow of a slightly more famous Ivy League university. Jorge Luis Armenteros founded Tobacconist University in 1996, at the height of the 1990s cigar craze, originally as training for his shop staff. Soon, others in the industry wanted the same knowledge. Now, most of the coursework is online at a cost of $100 to $1,000, depending on experience. Tobacconist University has 450 Certified Retail Tobacconists, with another 1,000 apprentices studying for the certification. At the top end of the program is Certified Master Tobacconist, which includes 100 hours of work in tobacco fields or cigar factories and an “academic contribution,” such as a paper or article. There are only 13 Certified Master Tobacconists.
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.
Local restaurateurs Johnny and Jimmy Tung (Sticky Rice, Chela Tequila & Tacos) continue Bento’s wayward expansion with the latest outpost opening inside the revamped Centre of Winter Park. Bento’s gleaming interior comprise the du rigueur components of today’s modern restaurant, and patrons appear to be dazzled by it as much as the menu. A pan-Asian free-for-all of sushi rolls, rice/noodle/poke bowls, soups and, of course, bento boxes is really no different than any other Bento, but the newness of its presence in Winter Park has gastronomes agog.
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.
I went to Whisk today after working out and thought I'd treat myself with Toasted Cornbread ($6) and a Adobo Grilled Chicken Sandwich ($17), as well as a Diet Coke ($2.50, for a can). The Toasted Cornbread had three large pieces, but unfortunately the first piece I touched was cold. Mistakes inevitably happen, so it was no big deal and so I told my waiter. He apologized, took the plate and asked me if I'd like another order, which I did because of the workout lol. The second batch of cornbread however still missed the mark. The problem with heating up cold stored corn bread is that it can dry up unless you heat it the correct way. The corn bread was unfortunately dry and crumbled at the touch, lacking the texture you'd hope. The flavors were there however for classic corn bread.
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