Chatham's has been wowing Orlando's fans of fine dining since 1988, an impressive feat for any restaurant these days, and that's likely due to a well executed combination of ambiance, service and culinary excellence. From lump Cajun crab cakes to filet mignon, Florida grouper to rack of lamb, the menu is not extensive, but laden with interesting spins on classic dishes. Whatever it is, it keeps diners coming back for special nights out. Attentive but unintrusive service allows diners to enjoy their meals quiety, intimately, and often with live piano accompaniment. Chatham's is an excellent choice for client dinners, as well, but when it comes to special occasions, birthdays, anniversaries and other potentially romantic occasions, it's an ultra-reliable go-to.

Since I just spent a year writing a book about cider, the first credential I seek out is to become a Certified Cider Professional (or CCP), a brand-new professional title created by the United States Association of Cider Makers. I attended an introductory seminar on the CCP Level 1 exam at CiderCon in Baltimore in the winter of 2018. The following summer, one afternoon on a whim — without any further study — I decide to log in to the cider association website, pay $75 and take the exam. There are 60 questions on apple history, apple classifications and genetics, cidermaking techniques, styles of cider, detecting flaws, and food pairings with cider. I submit my answers, then find out instantaneously that I’ve gotten 89 percent correct — a passing grade. It has taken me 37 minutes 47 seconds to complete the exam, which includes the interruption of a 15-minute work call. I am now proudly a Level 1 Certified Cider Professional — a cider sommelier. I receive a felt CCP patch in the mail — one that I might have proudly ironed onto my acid-washed jean jacket back in the ’80s. Within months, I am teaching cider classes to candidates who also hope to pass the CCP Level 1 test.
Gone are the fun house mirrors and Ferris wheel parts of its predecessor, Disney-fan favorite the Flying Fish Cafe. The newly minuted version comes with a shortened name and some exceptionally swanky decor that pairs beautifully with its sustainable seafood. Plancha-seared scallops, wood-fired Spanish octopus, crispy soft shell crab and Maine lobster nero pasta are among the phenomenal entrees. Got a dining companion who's less than keen on joining the Little Mermaid "under the sea?" Turf items such as Wagyu filet mignon should do nicely. Walking in on a busy evening? The restaurant's elegant bar is an idea spot to wait, imbibe and peruse the evening's catch, or you can head next door to the steampunk-Houdini haven of AbracadaBar where the drinks are imbued with so much Disney magic, you'll want to make a couple disappear.
Located just a block from Lake Eola in Thornton Park, Soco is one of the best places in Orlando to spend an afternoon eating and drinking outside. This place serves high-end comfort food, like grilled meatloaf with lobster mash potatoes, Southern fried quail and waffles, and a weekly TV dinner special that yes, gets served on an actual tray covered in foil. Drinks-wise, they have a huge wine list, along with plenty of cocktail and beer options. When you want to pretend like you don’t have responsibilities, come to Soco for a long weekend brunch or to spend the entire day on a patio.
Most taste-expert programs are modeled, in some fashion, on the venerable wine sommelier certifications; none have deviated radically from these. The term “sommelier” technically means a “wine waiter” or “wine steward,” a restaurant position dating to 18th-century France. “My purist definition of a sommelier is someone who works in hospitality, who serves wine in a restaurant,” said David Wrigley, international development manager of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, a London-based accreditation organization. I spoke with Wrigley last summer in Washington at an event called SommCon. There, the WSET presented its program to potential students alongside three rival organizations: the Society of Wine Educators, the Institute of Masters of Wine, and the Court of Master Sommeliers, the last being the subject of the popular documentary “Somm” and sequels. All of these programs offer a ladder of advancing levels, from introductory through master, increasing in price and commitment. WSET Level 1, for example, begins at just under $400 for six hours of course study, rising to Level 4. Level 4 alone takes up to 18 months and 600 hours of study to complete and costs more than $4,000 — and that cost can easily double as thousands more are spent on travel and acquiring bottles to taste. The WSET’s enrollment in the United States grew by 24 percent in 2017-2018. It now has more than 14,000 students, and worldwide there are more than 94,000.
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.
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.
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.

Stock your shelves and storage containers with our spices and seasonings, from classic American rubs to international spices and salts. Infuse every dish with flavor with a little help from our vast variety of condiments and sauces. From gourmet mustards and fine oils and vinegars to zesty barbeque sauces and spicy hot sauces, we have something to spread, dip or drizzle on all of your favorite foods.
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.
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.
Chef Xiong ‘Tiger’ Tang impressed as the executive chef of Zen at the Omni Orlando Resort, but at his West Colonial Drive (Orlando’s unofficial Chinatown) restaurant, he downright dazzles with wickedly infernal dishes highlighting the cuisine from Sichuan Province, the capital Chengdu in particular. A more gratifying lobster – hacked, reassembled, then adorned with an alluring mix of chilies, peppercorns, garlic and cilantro – won’t be found in this town, while lamb sautéed in hot pepper sauce wrapped in tinfoil, and a Chongqing-style hotpot with head-on shrimp, tripe, beef and fried fish mixed with crunchy lotus root and cauliflower are electrifying choices for the capsicum-deprived.
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.
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.
Orlando is about much more than its famous theme parks and the chain restaurants that spill out in their shadows. Orlando is a city of diverse denizens, historic neighborhoods, all-encompassing things to do, nightlife, parks and them some—especially when it comes to food. When in town, you (or rather, your tastebuds) will be awestruck by food trucks and hole-in-the-wall eateries showcasing international foods; bistros and cafes creating seasonal fusion fare; fishmongers slinging seafood straight from Florida’s shores and chefs crafting with ingredients from their very own gardens. It’s inside Orlando’s kitchens that you’ll start to feel the city’s character, whether dining at a fancy hotel or an anonymous-looking eatery. So get ready to truly get to know the City Beautiful while dining at the best (independent) restaurants in Orlando.

Its air-conditioned confines may be miles away from the sultry Southeast Asian climes in which one would enjoy the layered flavors of the Malaysian food stalls for which it is named, but Mamak Asian Street Food's plates – small and large – are an exotic journey without the plane fare. From the familiar (spring rolls, street tacos) to items the less adventurous might deem out-there (fish balls, curry gravies) its menu culls from various Asian nations creating a mix of flavors that beg to be sampled. A central location in Mills 50 makes exploration of the neighborhood a pleasant to-do, pre-dinner or post-lunch.
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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