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.
Then I learn about the American Cheese Society’s T.A.S.T.E. Test, which launched in the summer of 2018. Passing this exam will confer the title of Certified Cheese Sensory Evaluator (cheese sommeliers don’t call themselves sommeliers). Cheese feels like something I can handle. I’d recently spent time on assignment for The Washington Post in Bra, Italy, reporting from the Slow Food cheese event, tasting from among 300 cheesemakers from 50 countries. The founder of Slow Food declared the event to be “the beating heart of cheese” and those of us attending the “cheese intelligentsia.” Well, as a member of the cheese intelligentsia, surely I can pass the T.A.S.T.E. Test.
Charly Robinson, who runs F&D Kitchen & Bar and F&D Cantina in Lake Mary, moved into the building that previously housed Peppino’s Organic Italian Kitchen in the newly minted Hourglass District – one of the hottest neighborhoods in the city. Robinson subsequently spruced the place up making it even more inviting and welcoming than before without compromising the restaurant’s convivial mien. A bevy of Neapolitan-style pies are offered from a bianca with fennel sausage and rapini to three-milk blue cheese with caramelized onions and rosemary, as are a trio of vegan pies. But a cacio e pepe from their pasta offerings is what’s causing a stir amongst the city’s noodle hounds.
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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.
Landlocked Central Florida is not Italy, but when you want to temporarily forget that, go to Prato. This always-packed restaurant in Winter Park serves modern Italian food, like mustard spaghetti cacio e pepe and a variety of wood-fired pizzas, and has retractable doors and a patio, which almost makes it feel like you’re getting a nice breeze from the Mediterranean. There’s always a wait if you don’t make a reservation, but just grab a drink at the bar and start debating with your friends about how many pastas to order in the meantime.
When only the very best gifts will do for foodie friends – or even yourself – turn to Williams-Sonoma’s Gourmet Food and Specialty Food Gifts selection. We’ve hand-curated a collection of delicious delectables. You’ll find a little something for any gourmet food lover here, from special holiday items like candy corn to handmade jams and jellies that taste like they just came out of grandma’s pantry. Serve an entire table with our entrees and sides, or just toss something together for teatime with our cookies, cakes and sweets. We make entertaining easy by letting you shop from and order to the comfort of home.
Why go: Domu serves authentic Japanese style ramen right alongside their very own spins on the classics. Attached to the East End Market—Orlando’s European-style artisan hall of makers—the restaurant feels super hip. In terms of specific orders, we suggest always asking for the kimchi butter chicken wings, an appetizer so good, it will make your head spin.
As the class chuckles over that distinction, Frankenberg reminds us: “Remember, taste is always subjective. No matter if a professional tells you, ‘This tastes like wet slate from the Loire Valley.’ ” I’ve heard the same sentiment expressed by almost every taste expert I’ve visited. And yet, every one of these experts has a vested interest in taste being way more codified than subjective.
A gourmet store will often stock ingredients of the highest quality from around the world. They often develop special contacts in order to import and sell foods that are not readily available in their area otherwise. You may be able to work with the store to acquire ingredients by request. In addition, such stores often stock equipment needed to prepare gourmet dishes.
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.
Serving ‘food for the starving artist’, Café Tu Tu Tango is an artsy, colorful little venue with a huge spirit of fun and community. Local artists display their work on the restaurant’s walls and strike up conversation with guests, while local ingredients are turned into delicious, tapas-style concoctions perfect for sharing. Try the Argentinean-style orange chimmichurri steak, the adventurous guava-glazed barbecue pork ribs or the chorizo al fuego – a delicious mix of spicy Spanish chorizo served with brandy-glazed fingerling potatoes. The atmosphere at Café Tu Tu Tango is vibrant and bohemian, so prepare to dive into a world where creativity meets community.