The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Side of Orlando Events
I attended events at two Orlando venues I’d not visited before and one I have. They were all better than just good. In fact, if you remember the old Tony the Tiger commercial signature line, they were “Grrrrrreat!.”
So, I see you already scratching your head and wondering, then where does the bad or the ugly come in? Read on. I’ll get there.
I’m pretty fortunate. In my multitasking roles as Natasha, The Psychic Lady (a corporate and social performer), an active member with both Meeting Professionals International’s Orlando chapter and the Orlando chapter of the International Special Events Society, as well as my always-interesting role as Contributing Editor for Prevue Magazine (a meetings & events industry publication), I get invited to a lot of functions.
Saturday evening I dined at Todd English’s bluezoo at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel in Lake Buena Vista. To say our food selections were impeccably done would be an understatement. I knew bluezoo creates its own infused adult beverages, such as the Bazooka Joe, which allegedly tastes just like the bubble gum. I also know they customize cocktails to fit a corporate client’s logo colors or the function’s theme, so I was eager to see their unusual concoctions.
We began with two signature cocktails, both with a tequila base. One was a flaming orange cocktail that literally carmelized the orange slices as it shot sparks from the glass. The other was a coca and raspberry cocktail that emitted warmth and deep chocolate espresso notes. Our appetizer choices were superb accompaniments. My husband feasted on clam chowder… not the thick mixture one associates with the traditional New England style, but a thin broth rich in complex layers of clams, hints of bacon, and seasonings. I went bold (for me) and tried the signature yellowfin tuna tartare, pebble-sized bites of tuna shaped like a log and coated in a crispy rock shrimp, orange glaze and scallion cream.
There’s an extensive selection of delectable wines by the glass. I asked our enthusiastic server, Matt, to please bring an appropriate white wine (as I know more about reds) to accompany my selection of locally-fresh tile fish, with a side bowl of a warm crab meat, Dijon mustard and chive sauce. The light buttery chardonnay played well with the delicacy of the fish and not-overpowering crab sauce. My husband chose the Ze’idaho Berkshire, a German-styled pork loin set alongside a German potato topped by pork belly, apple kraut and an apple mustard glaze.
Neither of us thought it possible to eat any more, but were besieged to give their Chocolate Melange a chance. Five bite-sized portions of scrumptiousness. Flambéed milk chocolate malt créme brulee, hot coriander chocolate truffle, cinnamon chocolate sorbet, a crispy chocolate with absinthe chocolate cream, and a concha chocolate mousse dome coated in a hazelnut crunch.
Though many patrons in the restaurant were dressed in ultra casual been-to-the-parks-all-day tourists, we dressed for the special occasion we deemed it to be. Prices are in the $$$ range, but for an evening of fine dining to remember, give this one a try.
Was also fortunate to be invited to Eleven, a polished wood and elegantly refined restaurant atop the Grande at Reunion Resort. The occasion was a celebration of opening the formerly members-only rooftop restaurant to the general public. Passed Kobe beef sliders, crunchy spring rolls and specialty lemon-tinis were reason enough to enjoy, but the sauced lamb lollipops, fresh seafood buffet, amazing scallops and the raved-about-by-everyone-returning-for-seconds beef short ribs served over creamy mashed potatoes had guests licking their lips.
Food was delish, but here’s what you need to know. Eleven has spectacular views from its expansive deck, which just happens to encircle the pool. Groups can now buy out the pool area, the restaurant, or both. During cooler evenings, the fireplace warms up a conversational seating area. The deck overlooks a distant Disney, but not so distant that EPCOT’s nightly fireworks are hidden. Signature cocktails, a wide deck overlooking fireworks lighting up the sky, and passed munchies make for a Grande group experience.
The other place we visited was Tavern on the Lake in MetroWest. We weren’t there for the food, but for an industry-invited night of comedians hosted by Bonkerz Comedy Club.
What you missed were five comedians each doing a short set designed to showcase their talents to meeting planners, producers and other industry folks. We literally laughed until we cried. Each unique talent briefly noted they offer clean humor customized to their corporate audiences, incorporating magic, impressions or insights into their jokes.
Myke Herlihy hosted and led off the evening’s entertainment, injecting magic into his humor. ISES member Valerie Lenz (CPS Orlando) became part of the act for an astonishing close-up illusion. Carmen Vallone’s Italian heritage played into his bits and Ron Feingold astonished with his musical impressions. John Deboer’s family played into his routine and Kier used his guitar and vocal renderings to amp up his bits. The showcase ended with special guest comedian, Louie Anderson, who had just finished two sold-out shows in Lakeland and had committed to joining the other comedians in this showcase.
Recognized some MPI and ISES industry professionals in the audience, potential talent buyers such as Lee Peyton (Peyton Entertainment), Connie Riley (T.Skorman) and Andrea Vigil (Design Elements-Orlando).
And here, finally, is where the bad and the ugly comes in.
What was bad is that not only did you miss checking out comedians who skillfully showed off their clean corporate humor, but that Sales Manager Giana Tralongo had received enough RSVP’s so that every seat should have been filled. The restaurant had a table of complementary appetizers and had dressed each table in preparation of a packed house of industry professionals. The ugly part is that fewer than a third of those who RSVP’d actually showed up. Shame on you!
As a performer and as a person who loves to host dinner parties, I have seen a horrendous pattern emerging: people who think nothing of changing their mind about attending an event and don’t bother to alter their RSVP. In an industry of professionals who should know better about the consuming time and cost of food preparation, hiring talent, décor, and lights and video production, you really should be ashamed. Really! Didn’t your parents teach you any manners? Is this how you want people to treat your events?
Whether it’s a monthly chapter meeting, your corporate function, or a simple gathering of friends, do you think it fair that someone has invested a lot of time, moneyand good will into hosting an event and you think so little of that effort that you just don’t bother to appear?
I’d love to know your thoughts?
Karen Kuzsel is a writer-editor based in theOrlandoarea who specializes in the hospitality, entertainment, meetings & events industries. She is a Contributing Editor-Writer for Prevue Magazine and is an active member of ISES and MPI, for which she is on the Membership Advisory Council and the Industry Advisory Council. She writes about food & wine, spas, venues, meetings & events (figured that one out, did ya?) A career journalist, Karen has owned magazines, written for newspapers, trade publications, radio and TV. As her alter-ego, Natasha, The Psychic Lady, she is a featured entertainer for corporate and social events.
bluezoo sounds good. you should be a food writer. when you’re ready, we can link your stories on Prevue over to here to drive traffic to your site.