Why go: The experience starts with a stroll down Park Avenue, Orlando’s European-looking, cobblestoned street. The walk sets the scene for a slow-paced Parisian evening. Through the restaurant’s doors is a classic, intimate dining room with white linen tables set for no more than four people. Dishes are prepared in classic French style, paired with fine wine that changes often and perfectly complements the European flavors presented by the chef.
After lunch, there is a tour of Murray’s caves, where the cheese ages. Then we’re led through the tasting of eight more cheeses by Tyler Frankenberg, the company’s customer experience manager, also a Certified Cheese Professional. This tasting is about comparing variations in cheesemaking: the differences between cheese near the rind vs. the tip, washed rind vs. ash, unaged vs. aged (“older doesn’t necessarily mean better,” we’re told). At one point we compare two versions of a funky pasteurized sheep’s milk cheese called Hollander with an aroma that people describe as earthy, mineral, “like mom’s basement” and even redolent of ammonia. “With this one, the bark is worse than its bite,” Frankenberg says.
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.
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.
Inspired by food carts across Southeast Asia, this Mills 50 restaurant serves a wide range of small plates, soups, noodles, and rice dishes to eat-in or carry-out. The menu is a bit all over the place and includes things like Malaysian curry laksa and Hong Kong wontons, but it’s the variety of food that keeps us coming back here all the time. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but the roast duck lettuce wraps and the shrimp and pork #dimsumcrunchyballs are two of our favorites - yes, even if one of them does have a hashtag in front of it.

I am not ready to admit how effortlessly I attained this certification until, one evening, I find myself at Anxo Cidery, the epicenter of Washington’s cider scene, in Northwest D.C. Anxo required all of its front-of-house staff to become CCPs, and I am chatting with two bartenders about how I’ve passed the exam. They both also recently passed. “That exam was so easy,” one bartender tells me. “I took it when I was drunk.”


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.

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.

Why go: Although originally set up in Key West, Santiago’s now boasts two additional locations in Orlando, each with a particular personality. This communal spot embodies the sharing mentality behind Spanish-style small plates. Come here with a large group to sample the breadth of the menu but make sure not to leave before really delving into the space’s look. The reclaimed wood bar top, stained glass windows, Gaudi-esque furniture and one-of-a-kind artwork all over the restaurant make it that much more special.

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