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.

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. 

Ceviche is a downtown tapas spot that’s a great place to start a night out. There’s a long bar, which is ideal if you’re on a date or out with a friend, and if you’re with a group, the large restaurant includes tables of just about every size imaginable. The menu includes a variety of tapas, along with things like paella, ceviche, and pitchers of sangria. They also host live music and flamenco shows regularly, so if you want to simplify your night by going straight from dinner to dancing on a stage without leaving the building, you can do that at Ceviche, just hope no one has their phone out.
The Ravenous Pig was pretty much the first to bring the term "gastropub" into the Orlando foodie lexicon. Since it opened its doors, the city's dining scene has swelled to epic buzzworthy proportions (and the restaurant has swelled past its original location and moved into bigger digs on Fairbanks). Local is king here; a rotating food and craft cocktail menu features ingredients grown, raised and made by Florida purveyors. A few dishes are mainstays, but the rest change up with regularity, leaving diners to wonder what delights they may find when they venture in. Oxtail stroganoff over tagliatelle? Pot-au-feu? Could be. If not, another fresh-made creation is sure to please. Come thirsty, as well. Rotating taps feature phenomenal craft beers including those of its own in-house brewing operation, Cask + Larder.
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.
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.

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.
Why go: We're pretty sure that pizza is a superfood and the contemporary Italian fare here is some of the best in Orlando. Relax inside or out on the large patio (although the huge floor to ceiling windows make you feel like you're outdoors anyway) with a menu that changes daily. Expect items like pretzel-crusted calamari, artichoke ravioli and hand-stretched pizzas.

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.

×