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.
My training as a honey sommelier at the American Honey Tasting Society culminates with eight wineglasses filled with various honeys, lined up from light to dark. My instructor, Carla Marina Marchese, tells me that when we taste honey, we don’t do the ceremonial swirl — the wine expert’s ritual — before we sniff. Honey sommeliers smear. “Smear it on the sides of the glass like this,” she says, using a tiny plastic spoon. Once the honey is smeared, I can stick my nose in the glass to properly evaluate the aroma, then spoon a dollop onto my tongue.
Promising a refined Italian menu of thin crust pizzas, delectable pastas and an excellent Trattoria-style wine program, the Hilton’s signature La Luce is up there amongst Orlando’s best restaurants. Only open for dinner, the candlelit tables and lulling music makes for a romantic setting, although the generously-sized potions and lively service make this good for the whole family. If you’re not into your wines, the creative Mediterranean-inspired cocktail list is well worth checking out too.
The Italian Alba truffle is having a great and early start this year, and we have shipments of this fragrant beauty already coming in. This delicacy, so aromatic, so deliciously luxurious, and with so short and elusive a season, is our favorite of the truffle bunch. We expect the season to last until January, but with Mother Nature you never know, so place those truffle orders ASAP!
Lalousis had been managing Maille’s retail boutique in London when he was tapped for his expertise. “My boss told me, ‘I think you’ve got a calling. You’ve got a love for mustard.’ ” He was sent to the factory in Dijon for six months of training and learned “everything there was to know about mustard.” As far as Lalousis is aware, he’s the only mustard sommelier in the world. That’s not to say, however, that he is the first mustard sommelier in history. “We had a mustard sommelier in 1747 when we opened a store in Paris,” he says. At that time in Paris, Dijon mustard was not well known. “Our founder wanted people to know how to use Dijon mustard. He wanted to show people that it was an ingredient and not just a condiment.” And if Lalousis has his way, he will not be the last. He’s developing an educational program that will certify future mustard sommeliers about types of mustard seed, harvest techniques, chemical compounds in mustard, regional differences, levels and qualities of pungency, various pairings and uses, and what Lalousis calls “the culture of mustard.”
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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.
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.
Now, we work our way through what she calls “single-origin” honeys: a straw-colored, delicate acacia honey from Bulgaria; a smooth, surprisingly savory orange blossom honey from Florida; a pleasantly strange, brick-colored honey from Maine blueberry blossoms, with complex aromas of cheese and tomato paste and flavors from dried fruit to umami. “This is not your clover honey from a teddy bear,” Marchese says. “That honey in the teddy bear is just sugar water.”
I love chicken parmesan… SO much. But I definitely don’t love the tedious breading process, so many dishes to wash, and how long it can take to make it! I dreamt up this dish a while ago, then found out The Cookie Rookie had already made a great version… so I headed over to her page and made some tweaks based on what I had on hand. This version is made with everyday ingredients, and is incredibly flavorful!