Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month 2015: Ravello

2nd in a series

Grilled chicken with herbed potatoes and seasonal vegetables. photo by Karen Kuzsel

Grilled chicken with herbed potatoes and seasonal vegetables. photo by Karen Kuzsel

There have been a few misses during the years Russ and I have indulged in Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month experiences, but none as sharply disappointing as the meal at Ravello, in the Four Seasons Resort. It’s not that our meals were bad; they were just so mediocre and unmemorable. Vastly different from our expectations.
This was our first time to the Four Seasons, so we arrived early to walk around the property. Gorgeous, especially the lobby entrance. Flanking both sides of an impressive curving staircase are tall black vases filled with flowers. Hanging over the staircase are an array of multi-dimensional Read more

Orlando’s Food Scene Outlined in Ricky Ly’s Guide

Food Lovers' Guide to Orlando  I am not sure if Orlando has ever had a food guide before Ricky Ly took on the task. I had heard about Ricky Ly before meeting him at two food events where we were both invited as food critics. Ly is a food blogger who can be found at @tastychomps or on FaceBook at tastychomps. His book is the Food Lovers’ Guide to Orlando: The Best Restaurants, Markets & Local Culinary Offerings.
Like Ly’s day job as an engineer, he tackled this food guide with meticulous organization and verve at getting the project done in a timely manner. Unfortunately, as with a guide of any kind, the listings start to become outdated by the time the guide is published. I noticed that with several of the restaurants mentioned here that are no longer in business.
Nonetheless, for someone looking for descriptions of a restaurant’s cuisine, a bit of background, and where it’s geographically located within the metro Orlando area (which is divided in food zones), this book is a winner. He articulates Orlando into downtown, central, north, west, east and south areas, as well as breaking down further into Universal/International Drive, Restaurant Row/Sand Lake Road, and Disney/Lake Buena Vista. The surprise is a separate listing for Winter Park and for food trucks. He told me he had visited all 300 restaurants listed here. I wish I could more plainly see the evidence of that. I like when he mentions dishes he personally favors at these restaurants. There just should have been more of that.  Instead, many of the restaurants are relegated to general information about what style of cuisine is prepared; information that could be found elsewhere.
I can see this guide as very useful for someone unfamiliar with Orlando restaurants, or someone just looking to try something new when out of their usual vicinity for dining out. Restaurants are delineated as to their price, type of attire (dressy or casual), and which are hid favorites. Specialty markets and stores are also categorized.
The book sells for $14.95 and can be found on Amazon or you can just contact Ly on his Facebook page or twitter name to get updates on where it can be purchased. Tell him you heard about the book in my blog.
Karen Kuzsel is a writer-editor based in the Orlando area 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. She writes about food & wine, spas, destinations, venues, meetings & events. 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.; @karenkuzsel; @thepsychiclady.

Food Lovers’ Guide to Orlando

Orlando Dining Districts go Magical in September


roasted beets surround the Duck Confit Salad. photo by Karen Kuzsel

  Some people eat to live. I live to eat. OK, so maybe I should qualify that a tad. I vigorously exercise on a fairly consistent basis so that I can eat what I want, (and almost) when I want. When travelling, I studiously ponder restaurant menus, ogling descriptions of mouth-watering dishes combined in an inventive manner that utilize that region’s flavors and locally-produced ingredients. Food fascinates me. I want to taste, touch, smell, and ingest ethnic flavors and chef-crafted creations.
            You only have to watch the Food Network for a day, or peruse the limitless selections of cookbooks pandering to diverse diets to know food has become so much more than a simple meal prepared quickly. A hamburger doesn’t raise eyebrows unless it’s been stuffed with artisan cheeses, farm-fresh bacon, shredded glazed meats, exotic mushrooms, caramelized onions, or sauces. Even with a suffering economy, a fine dining experience (and whatever that means to your personal palette) is still a beacon that draws one through a restaurant’s doors.
            I am not alone in wanting to awe my taste buds. Convention & Visitor Bureaus and city governments have discovered that defining dining districts attracts arts, entertainment and shopping businesses, which then creates a community persona that’s easy to market.   
            Fort Worth has the West 7th Street Corridor, formerly a light industrial space converted into hip eateries and bars that becomes a raucous block party for private groups. Uptown Charlotte (NC) is actually their downtown, Read more

With Seafood this good, I don't have to learn to fish!


Mahi Mahi Picatta

                I was willing to celebrate my anniversary night celebration on the wrong night just so I could indulge in Big Fin Seafood Kitchen’s Monday night $13.95 special for a one-and-a-half lb steamed Whole Maine Lobster. I even fantasized about eating two of them by myself just to mark the occasion as extra special. My husband had a better idea as it turned out. Celebrate on the correct night, but begin the feast of food during Big Fin’s daily happy hour, from 5-7 pm. Big Fin is located in the Dr Phillips area at the Dellagio Town Center. Whether you dine in at the Trophy Bar or outside at the Bar-A-Cuda Patio and Bar, cocktails and appetizers were a pocket-pleasing $5 each.
                As the weather was muggy that night and we dressed up, we chose to sit inside at the Trophy Bar, a casually-friendly eclectic mix of décor. Rich dark woods frame contemporary light fixtures that render a subdued glow.  A large blackboard states the night’s fresh offerings. An eye-popping checkered black & white floor design runs into the white marble bar counter and the column bases separating the bar area from the main dining room. I like the whimsy of Big Fin. The food is seriously good, but the décor has a relaxed feel Read more