“Just take one bite. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat a second.” I can still hear my mom’s cajoling words when I turned up my nose or clenched my mouth tight. Light years later, those very words slipped out of my mouth when my picky-eater daughter would refuse to eat what I had cooked. Fortunately for both of us, now world class champions of trying a bite of something unfamiliar (no insects, please… I can only bend so far!), the “try one bite rule” has enabled us to travel across many countries and continents, devouring many new foods along the way.
Russ is not big on my all-but-the-kitchen-sink salads. Yes, he can pick out the items he’ll eat, but every once-in-a-while (or in our household, more often than not), I rely on ingenuity to create dishes that will appeal to both of us. That’s how this Tomato, Avocado & Salted Peanut Salad came about. They are all ingredients he enjoys. (A can of cocktail peanuts sits by his side of the loveseat to continually munch on while watching TV).
This cake is a family favorite that I’ve been making since I was 16 when a friend shared her family’s recipe. Although I wouldn’t hesitate to bake it anytime of year, when the weather hits fall, it becomes a must-do. This is an easy-to-do cake, one even beginners shouldn’t be afraid to tackle.
Once upon a time I catered international cuisines. I had an Israeli Chef then as a partner, so preparing Middle Eastern delights became a focus of our business. One of the dishes I learned then and have always enjoyed making and eating since is spanakopita, a Greek-based dish that includes spinach, feta, filo or puffed pastry. I have made small triangles or thin roll-ups for appetizers, larger versions for side dishes, or have layered a 9×13 pan with many sheets of buttered filo piled atop one another, added my filling, and then topped with more layers of filo.
Yesterday I was in the mood for using my hands other than to lift weights to strengthen my bone density. As I perused my refrigerator, pantry shelves, and freezer, it was as if all the ingredients for spanakopita yelled, “Pick me, pick me.”
In my household, real men (meaning my husband, Russ) not only eat quiche, but enjoy it.
My favorite quiche recipe came from my sister, Debbie. Although I have made it exactly as she gave it to me the first time, I have never made it the same way twice ever since, not because I don’t adore her original recipe, but because I use whatever cheeses I happen to have available. I don’t exactly follow original suggestions for amounts of cheese either, usually putting at least a half-cut more… just because. Although I usually use fresh spinach because that’s what I know what Russ will eat, Debbie’s recipe also includes broccoli as an alternative.
Occasionally I add some cooked, crumbled bacon, but have also added al dente diced asparagus and/or ham. My cheese assortments have been swiss, gruyere, muenster, boursin, feta, ricotta, cheddar, or a mixture of Italian cheeses. The result is that each time, the texture and taste are different. The dish lends itself to improvisation.
Fixing a meal quickly can be done, but it is not my preference.
Today was just one of those days when groceries were being delivered sooner than expected and I had about 45 minutes to prepare a meal of my husband Russ’ choosing. Shortcuts were necessary. So, I didn’t take notes on quantities in order to give you precise amounts. I used what I had available, and with ingredients I knew he’d eat.
But before I tell how I made it, I need to vent. If anyone ever asks me about what I disliked intensely during the months of Coronvirus fears, other than the expected answers such as socializing and getting my hair done, I would say it’s being so concerned about keeping my husband and I safe, that I didn’t do my own grocery shopping. I am one of those rare (apparently, as my friends have noted to me) people who enjoy grocery shopping. If the watermelon isn’t the right color, the cantelope mushy, or the romaine lettuce spines are ribbed in pink, I am not buying them. I’d do without first. I’m just as choosy about meats, poultry, or cheeses.
Chicken pot pie is like a warm blanket fresh from the dryer on a blustery day that your mom wraps around you to quiet the chilled air. Chicken pot pie is comforting love, and yet, I can’t recall the last time I personally cooked it. I’ve had enough bad versions in restaurants — the dough wasn’t cooked through or there was a scarcity of filling amid a soupy, flavorless broth –so I knew what I didn’t want it to be. What I did want is to appeal to my husband Russ’ preference for a denser stuffing, and in these days of not being able to do a spur-of-moment run to the grocery store, I had to use what I had available.
Not everyone will have the time or ingredients I have, so as I go, I will share possible substitutions. If you’ve read my cooking blogs, you know I don’t measure, but I made a point of taking notes as I went to give you a close approximation. As always, adjust to your taste.
Cooking for a picky husband is always challenging, especially during COVID-19 when I am doing my best to work with ingredients still in my pantry/freezer/refrigerator. He’s a Midwestern born-and-raised meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, but in trying to restrain his desire for red meat, I try to mix in chicken dishes, and to expand his tastes with international flavors. With all this is mind, my meal for the day was a Spanish-styled chicken, doctored black beans from a can, and Spanish yellow rice. (Reminder: I don’t measure, but will try to give you an idea of what I do.)
I heard quickly from some of you that the bacon or some of the other items in my Mediterranean-styled Green Beans aren’t on your diets, but at least some of you have already shared ways to make substitutions or eliminate any items that won’t work for your individual health plan. Great! That is exactly the right thing to do.
But because I know many of you are veggie-lovers comme-moi, here is an easy dish I made today. My sweet hubby had to have two teeth extracted on an emergency basis yesterday, so I am pampering him with soft foods and dishes just to keep him happy. What that means, is that I can prepare dishes for myself about which he might not otherwise be overly enthusiastic.
Russ does love this Moroccan couscous, and I can occasionally sauté some chopped veggies into it or turn it into a salad side, but this combo was designed for me.
The couscous can be purchased at most grocery stores. I always have some on hand. The veggies I stocked up on during my last (and now infrequent during shelter-in-place restrictions) grocery run. You can use any, or all, of my suggestions, and don’t hesitate to embellish with your own spices.
I didn’t know we were poor. I just knew that growing up in a multi-household of amazing cooks (and bakers) that there were two rules: you never know who may show up famished, so be able to stretch your meal, and never let anyone leave hungry.
Sometimes I’d walk into my grandma’s Coney Island, NY kitchen where she and my Aunt Fanny would be stirring big pots of chicken matzoh ball soup or layering a black-and-white speckled enamelware roasting pan with stuffed cabbage, just in case unexpected relatives and friends happened to pop in… and they always did. The women in my family didn’t just cook. They cooked from love with limited budgets and unlimited imagination.
From the time my dad’s sister, Aunt Golda, guided me through making my own apple pie tart at the age of five, I have always baked and cooked. I have cookbooks, but mostly I just cook with what ingredients are on hand. I visualize the ingredients melding together, and then set about making that materialize. Between the sumptuous Eastern European dishes created by my mom’s and dad’s families, and later the exotic influences imprinted upon my mom as we lived and travelled internationally, I grew up experiencing the “throw a bit of this, a dash of that, smell, taste and be sure there is color” philosophy. When my mom returned to work, I was 11 and responsible for choosing what I would cook and then making the family meals.
Edible centerpieces are 3-D works of artistic skill that can showcase an event’s theme, decorate a simply clad table, or in the case of the Orange County (FL) public high school and vocational tech students, it can be the recognition that their creativity, knife cuts, and timed artworks merited their focused concentration.
I’ve lost track of how many years I have had the privilege to judge Orange County (FL) Public School’s Annual Hospitality and Culinary Competition, hosted each December at the Orlando World Center Marriott, but I haven’t lost my enthusiasm for what each Read more
We’re very fortunate living in the Orlando, FL area. While the rest of the country is still experiencing the bluster of March, we’re enjoying blue skies, low 80’s and gentle breezes. It was perfect weather for sitting on the back porch of Seasons 52 overlooking the lake, sipping on slights of wine and munching on flatbreads.
Seasons 52 is a Darden Restaurant original brand that specializes in fresh, locally sourced foods, with meals, appetizers and mini-desserts typically weighing in at no more than 500 calories, including the aforementioned flatbreads. The menu changes seasonally, and the wines offered on their stellar program called Flights & Flatbreads changes frequently. Each wine comes with tasting notes. The program is available daily up to 6 pm.
For $15, you can have a choice of whites or reds (roughly 3 ounces each) and one flatbread. For $20, their Acclaimed red wines are rated at 90+ points. According to Seasons 52, the Acclaimed wines are rated by Wine Spectator, The Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast Read more
Third in a Series
Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month is over for another year, but I have one more restaurant meal to describe because if next year’s selections were as wonderful as this year’s, Il Mulino New York Trattoria at the Walt Disney World Swan will bump up to our “must do” list.
Honestly, the quality of the meal, presentation and the above-excellent service by a team of servers came as a surprise. We went because we’d never eaten Read more
2nd in a series
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
This is the first in a series.
My husband and I love Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month each September. This year the “month” expanded so that it began August 24. All the better to luxuriously dine for $33 for a three-course meal and celebrate birthdays, our anniversary, getting together with friends, or just having an elegant evening out.
Such was our latter raison d’etre for selecting Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House of Orlando. The International Drive location just blocks from the Orange County Convention Center, has only been opened since mid-August, so wondered if it would still be experiencing growing pains. If this is how Del Frisco’s does business after two weeks, I can’t imagine how much better it will be in a couple months. The only negative I could say is that it was raining and there was no undercover protection to get out of one’s car for the complimentary valet service. The newly-built restaurant is contemporary in design, beautiful in taupe tones, and with dimmed lighting that exudes warmth. The staff were first class. There wasn’t one who passed by who didn’t greet us in their own way, all sounding as if they meant it. There are a number of private and large dining room spaces, as well as an extensive lounge area when you first enter. We thought the extended lit faux fireplace we passed enroute to the dining room added an atmosphere of drama. I can hear you saying, “But what about the food”?
My Midwestern-raised meat-and-potatoes husband said it doesn’t get better than this, both in the quality of the juicy, tender steak and in the preparation. A loaf of warm bread and butter was brought out immediately while we pondered the extensive wine list. We both ordered the classic Caesar salad. I had thought about the day’s soup, but mushroom bisque is not a favorite. The salad was crisp, plentiful, with just the right amount of tang from the lemon married to the anchovy salt. The croutons were handmade. I rarely order steak and if this hadn’t been a top-rated steak house, I likely would have chosen the pan-roasted chicken or the pan-seared salmon. As it was, Russ selected the 8-oz filet mignon and I took the (6 oz) filet medallions served with a red wine reduction. They both were cooked exactly as ordered, and a server asked us to cut it open to verify that before leaving our table, and were plated with Chateau potatoes (dense mashed potatoes) and thin sautéed Haricot Verts (green beans). Dessert was a tougher choice. We wanted all three, even though I was full by then and really just wanted to take my generous portion of warm banana bread pudding (chosen over the chocolate mousse with raspberry sauce) home to enjoy. It was served with a large mound of vanilla ice cream and lightly lined with caramel sauce. Russ ate the ice cream, I took a couple bites of the gooey banana concoction and took the rest home. He chose the cheesecake with butterscotch sauce, not a combo one generally sees on menus. The cheesecake was double the size usually given and twice as light and creamy. We took half of it home as well.
Meeting Planners, club and party hosts: this is for you. As I said, there are many dining room group options. The Eagle’s Nest, up to 10; The Executive, up to 28; the Barrel Room (half cellar), up to 45; and the Oak Room (half cellar), up to 35. The Grand Cru (full cellar) can accommodate up to 80 for sit down and 110 for reception. Presentation A/V available, as are flat screen TVs, and WiFi access. www.delfriscos.com
This is the first of our Magical Dining Month experiences for 2015. I’ll be writing about each of the ones we try.
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 and is now serving on the 2015 – 2016 MPI Global advisory Board for The Meeting Professional Magazine. Karen writes about food & wine, spas, destinations, venues, meetings & events. A career journalist, she 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. firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ThePsychicLady.com; @karenkuzsel; @thepsychiclady.
Full disclosure: I have not actually been to The Hotel Zamora, but was introduced to its amenities and styling modeled after Zamora, Spain, at a press lunch held at Kasa Restaurant and Bar in Orlando, FL. While this review is to introduce you to the recently built The Hotel Zamora on St. Petersburg Beach, FL, I must also recommend you try Kasa Restaurant’s fare.
Think of The Hotel Zamora as a gangly teen struggling to keep up with his/her unprecedented growth spurt. Though open only since July, 2014 and the first new hotel to be built in St. Petersburg in decades, The Hotel Zamora’s 72-room Mediterranean styling and Read more
If food tours were people, they’d be my new besties.
What’s not to like? On the tours I’ve taken, you make stops at locally known restaurants and stores to sample a dish and/or an adult beverage the hosts hope entices your return. More than just a walking tour through a neighborhood catering to a particular ethnicity or style of food, I enjoy the running commentary by amiable tour guides about iconic architecture and historic anecdotes that are typically included. My recent Sunday afternoon strolling along sunny Park Avenue in the upscale neighborhood of Winter Park, FL with my husband Russ and our friends, Sandy and Dom Pizzarusso, for the three-hour jaunt with Orlando Food Tours was one of our best food tours to date.
There are several reasons why this particular tour looked to be a winner even before we hooked up with our guide, Marshall, and the other eight folks on our tour. (The groups are usually no more than a dozen anywhere to facilitate conversation and easier serving for the various venues.)
One, Orlando Food Tours is a fairly new company so we were eager to jump on a LivingSocial coupon that discounted the price a tad. Everyone loves a bargain, right? Having that discount pushed us to try this unknown company’s offering. Second, even a fussy eater like my husband (a meat and potatoes Iowa man who can’t eat shellfish) would be able to indulge in each of the offerings. And that brings up another reason. Most tours don’t tell you exactly where you’re going or what types of food you’ll sample. This tour gives you the rundown upfront, with the stipulation that there could be last minute substitutions. On our registration form, we were even asked if we Read more
Oh, and while you’re at it, do it within a specified time limit under the watchful eyes of judging chefs and other culinary world volunteers who are making sure you’re following the guidelines set forth in the Orange County Public Schools Annual Hospitality and Culinary Competition. After all, with 220 competitors registered for the hospitality or culinary portion of this 5th annual competition, each student will want to showcase his or her specialized skills for the maximum benefit.
As one of the judges who has watched this competition grow each year, I am in awe of the talent and training our future hospitality and culinary staff are receiving. Sure, they’re competing for trophies and awards that honor their school program as well as their own abilities, but what’s at stake could also be scholarships to college programs. The first year I judged, I tasted about 20 desserts beginning at 10 am. Let’s just say I was happily shifted, and where I’ve remained each year, to judging the final presentation of edible centerpieces. I watch them carve fruits, craft shapes and create vignettes from apples Read more
What’s hot, what’s not lists usually don’t pique my curiosity but the Orlando chapter of the National Association of Catering and Events (NACE) cast a spell that had me drooling before I’d even registered for their monthly meeting. Not only was Mark Leggett, owner and designer for Arthur’s Catering going to be discussing food trends for events, but I was going to get to finally satisfy one of my “wonder what this would taste like” cravings.
Now I have piqued your interest, right?
About two years ago, I did a Prevue Magazine story that focused on why a meeting planner’s group returned to the Four Seasons in Phoenix, AZ for their annual conference. While not the only reason her group loved the resort, she said they couldn’t stop raving about the juicy cheeseburger sandwiched between a grilled glazed donut served at their western theme night barbecue. I couldn’t wrap my taste buds around this imagined flavor profile of the sweet donut soaked in the juices of a savory burger.
You know how when you first hear about something, then all of a sudden you seem to hear about it frequently? So it was with this burger, but I had yet to taste one for myself.
That all changed when the menu for NACE’s evening of “Comfort Food vs Healthy Choices: the clash between good and better” teased that one of the butler-passed mini-options would be a Krispy Kreme Burger enhanced by bacon and cheese.
It did not disappoint.
That said, I think the slider was the perfect size because there were so many other delightful dishes being presented that evening at the Ocoee Lakeshore Center and I wanted to taste all of them. There were Rosemary Potato Flatbread, a crunchy bite of Chicken & Waffle, and a Korean Pork Taco Read more
Some people eat to live.
I live to eat.
Cooking and baking are two of my passions. Thank goodness a third one is exercising (as long as music and dance are involved) or I’d weigh hundreds of pounds. My tongue waters as the smell of onions and garlic sizzling in a hot oiled pan assail my nose like the sweetest of perfumes. Fresh baked cookies, pizza, or a marinated pork roast simmering in caraway-infused sauerkraut… any and all of those aromas and my taste buds perk up like a child’s ears attuned to adults trying to whisper forbidden conversation.
I grew up in an Eastern European Jewish home and learned to cook and bake dishes from those ethnic cultures at the hands of my more than capable grandmothers, aunts and my Mom. A pinch of this. A dash of that. Smell. Toss. Stir. Experiment.
Our military service family moved frequently from state-to-state, country-to-country. Each time my Mom learned to cook like the natives. The education of my palate began early and by the Read more
Russell Crowe’s movie, “Noah” has me seeing things in pairs.
I first noticed that the small strip mall near my house contains three sets of restaurants: Chinese, barbeque, and Italian. I thought it odd that a second restaurant would come into the same plaza with a similar menu, but then noticed venues recreating in the same manner.
As an active member of both the Orlando area chapters of MPI (Meeting Professionals International) and ISES (International Special Events Society), I attend meetings at many newly-opened venues that cater to corporate and leisure groups. The latest pairs are upscale bowling alleys, museums about chocolate, and the unfolding of Diagon Alley, the famed street favored by wizards, witches and now muggles.
I was frankly curious how an upscale bowling alley would differ from the ones I used to frequent. And what exactly does one do at a museum about chocolate other than dream of mouth-melting morsels sans calories? Will the expansion of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley be as skillfully-replicated as its Hogsmeade counterpart at Universal Orlando Resorts’ Islands of Adventure?
So here’s what I’ve discovered.
Both Chocolate Kingdom and The World of Chocolate Museum & Café are surrounded by the trappings of Orlando’s famed tourism districts. Both museums offer amusing and educational guided tours of how chocolate went from being a drink only the wealthy could afford to the favorite reason to crash a diet, including the ever-popular “It’s dark chocolate so its oxidants are healthy for you” excuse. Both museums offer limited chocolate samples along the roughly 45-minute interactive tour, have event space, and each has a convenient gift store. That’s where the similarities end. Here’s what makes each of them stand out. Read more
Romance in The Venetian Room whispers like butterfly wings across the white linen tables, ornately carved dark woods, dim lighting and the hushed tones of the tuxedoed wait staff. Yes, we could have been part of the post-convention corporate crowd meeting at the Caribe Royale Hotel (Orlando, FL) where The Venetian Room is secluded behind heavy wooden doors and a whimsical entry, but instead we were one of the many couples cuddled in plush booth seats, curtained from the other tables by etched glass and wood walls. We were there to recapture the romantic aura emitted by both the elegantly sophisticated décor and the artistically divine creations of Chef Khalid Benghallem that we had first experienced last September for our anniversary.
Our first visit to the Four Diamond restaurant– routinely voted the most romantic restaurant in Orlando in various foodie surveys and publications, was during the Visit Orlando-sponsored Magical Dining Month when the prix fixee’ 3-course meal was $35. We’ve tried to return many times, but each time they were already booked up, so we were thrilled to get this reservation. Imagine how significant my husband Russ and I felt when two head waiters who had served us six months prior greeted us warmly and remembered roughly where we had sat and when we had been there. It doesn’t matter if their “remembering” had anything to do with our being in their customer system now; we felt “special.” Our main server for the evening was Matsi, a well-spoken knowledgeable server who proffered wise meal suggestions.
Once again, the ambiance created the mood that we were in for a sensory treat. The meal began with an amuse bouche of a delicate pesto cream gently tucked into a tartlet and kissed by a balsamic reduction. Five Read more
If wishes were dreams that come true, being able to take culinary classes in high school would have been near the top of my list. As easy as it would be for me to be envious of the 193 students who participated in the competition segments of the Orange County (FL) Public School’s 4th Annual Hospitality and Culinary Competition, I am instead grateful to have once again witnessed the incredible creative and skilled talent they exhibited.
The December competition held annually at the Orlando World Center Marriott broadens the number of categories and participating schools and tech centers each year who offer culinary and/or hospitality training. Competition categories include: gourmet meals, desserts, knife skills, decorative centerpieces, edible centerpieces, and waiter’s relay. The hospitality portion, which I didn’t see, includes room inspection, case study analysis and project presentation.
This was my fourth year of judging. The first time I agreed to sample desserts in the early morning. As lovely as some of those sweets were that crossed my lips and went straight to my hips, I have happily judged the presentation of edible centerpieces for the past three years if for no other reason than to stand in awe of what these students craft in an hour.
The Marriott prepared an amazing buffet in multiple stations for the judges and students and then awards are presented for the top places in each category. After smelling the aromas of gourmet meals and desserts being prepared tableside across the cavernous ballroom for a few hours, you can understand why there’s a mad rush for the buffet tables when given the OK signal.
Before I name the participating schools, tech centers and winners, I encourage anyone who would like to witness or impact future generations of hospitality and culinary stars to contact Patricia Breeding for next year’s team of volunteers. 407-317-3200,ext 2690 or Patricia.email@example.com.
Don’t take just my word that this program is beneficial. Dave Robitaille, MS, MT (ASCP) and Program Specialist and Administrator for the Health Science Career and Technical Education at OCPS says, “The data overwhelmingly shows that students enrolled in CTE programs have a greater chance of completing high school and going to college than non-CTE students. So, CTE programs should not be looked at as an alternative for students not bound for college. On the contrary, if parents want their children to go to college, they should encourage them to enroll in a CTE program.”
The high schools who participated are: Colonial, Cypress Creek, Freedom, Wekiva, Winter Park, Oak Ridge, Gateway School, and Dr Phillips. Tech centers include Mid Florida Tech, Westside Tech, and Orlando Tech. Sponsors included the Marriott, Keiser University, Johnson and Wales University, and the CFHLA.
|School||Home School||Student Name|
|Non – Edible Centerpiece|
|First place||Cypress Creek HS||Riani Pokipala|
|Second place||Dr Phillips HS||Cassidy Brown|
|Second place||Dr Phillips HS||Sofia Fernandez|
|Second place||Dr Phillips HS||Madison Fitch|
|Second place||Dr Phillips HS||Tia Humphries|
|First place||Mid Florida Tech||University HS||Christine Hernandez|
|Second place||Mid Florida Tech||Edgewater HS||Kristopher Davis|
|Third place||Mid Florida Tech||Cypress Creek||Jamie Pena|
|Dessert High School|
|First place||Gateway School||Heriberto Lopez|
|First place||Gateway School||Josue Cabrales|
|Second place||Cypress Creek HS||Grant Baldinger|
|Second place||Cypress Creek HS||Jessica Butler|
|Third place||Winter Park HS||Daniella Sauri|
|Third place||Winter Park HS||Raham Elsayed|
|First place||Westside Tech||Wekiva HS||Zakoya Hall|
|First place||Westside Tech||Evans HS||Devante McDonald|
|Second place||Westside Tech||West Orange HS||Kristi Caruana|
|Second place||Westside Tech||West Orange HS||Lauren Harms|
|First place||Winter Park HS||Melissa Morales|
|First place||Winter Park HS||Antonio Cepero|
|First place||Winter Park HS||Angelique Allison|
|Second place||Winter Park HS||Joey Goldberg|
|Second place||Winter Park HS||Laura Johnson|
|Second place||Winter Park HS||Foley Flood|
|Third place||Winter Park HS||Caleb Johnson|
|Third place||Winter Park HS||Julie Phicien|
|Third place||Winter Park HS||Amber Negron|
|Gourmet MealTech Center|
|First place||Westside Tech||West Orange HS||Angela Cippilone|
|First place||Westside Tech||West Orange HS||Brandon Santiago|
|First place||Westside Tech||West Orange HS||Abby Johnson|
|Second place||Mid Florida Tech||Cypress Creek||Emmanuel Arboleda|
|Second place||Mid Florida Tech||University HS||Raquel Amador|
|Second place||Mid Florida Tech||University HS||Desiree Perez|
|First place||Orlando Tech||Winter Park HS||Yafreicy Rodriguez|
|Second place||Mid Florida Tech||Dr Phillips HS||Fransheska Whittington|
|Third place||Westside Tech||Wekiva HS||Latasha Morris|
|First place||Freedom HS||Luis Alvarado|
|First place||Freedom HS||Ysenia Palomino|
|First place||Freedom HS||Lourdes Sanchez|
|Second place||Colonial HS||Christine Ortiz Hernandez|
|Second place||Colonial HS||Nathaniel Morales|
|Second place||Colonial HS||Angel Dones|
|Third place||Orlando Tech||University HS||Jessica Rivera|
|Third place||Orlando Tech||University HS||Gabrielle Tursi|
|Third place||Orlando Tech||University HS||Adrianna Colon|
Hospitality Competition Winners
|Event||School||Home School||Student Name|
|First place – Overall||Dr Phillips HS||Tia Humphries|
|First place||Dr Phillips HS||Cassidy Brown|
|First place||Dr Phillips HS||Madison Fitch|
|First place||Dr Phillips HS||Sofia Fernandez|
|Second place- Overall||Colonial HS||Yarissa Pena|
|Second place||Colonial HS||Meagan Ojeda|
|Second place||Colonial HS||Noe Hernandez|
|Second place||Colonial HS||Lesly Lopez|
|Third place – Overall||Mid Florida Tech||Lake Nona HS||Angie Grunskyte|
|Third place||Mid Florida Tech||West Orange HS||Jadia Johnson|
|Third place||Mid Florida Tech||Cypress Creek HS||Sasha Gatti|
|Third place||Mid Florida Tech||Wekiva HS||Deja Miller|
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. firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ThePsychicLady.com. @karenkuzsel; @thepsychiclady.
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
If money and time were as plentiful as the weeds trying to overtake my yard, I’d take cooking classes around the world from culinary master chefs –particularly if they share delectable but low-calorie recipes, and I’d wallow in spa service treatments bent on improving my emotional spirit while unknotting muscles cramped tighter than a woman wearing high heels during a day-long shopping binge across tiled floors.
With the impending escalation of activity that scurries in with Fall, time seems to becomes as stretched thin as a resistance tube just before it snaps harshly apart. Menu selection and preparation becomes as painstakingly deliberate as planning battlefield strategy: how many people, what’s the occasion (school lunches, executive dinner, client meal, tail gating party, or holiday banquet), the budget, the environment, and for goodness sakes, how many different dietary selections should be offered?
Don’t panic. Even if you’re not a gourmet cook, don’t have the budget Read more
“If you’re expecting Dragonfly to be a traditional sushi restaurant, then you need to think again,” utters my friend Julienne, a once-a-week sushi-holic with whom I recently dined at the year-old hot Orlando spot. “Sushi restaurants usually focus on the food, not on the décor. This place has the ambiance you’d expect in a San Francisco restaurant, with mood lighting and modern high-style. The music is contemporary and low enough you can have a conversation. The long couch in the lounge bar area invites mingling. This place is visually stunning. Perfect for date night or with all the indoor and outdoor private space, great for groups wanting to meet in a fashionable, comfortable setting.”
Dragonfly does indeed have ambiance. The restaurant is designed with three key elements in mind: sensual, spiritual and savory. Sensory is easy. There are those deep red spots of color on pillows, seat backs or drop down curtains that shield private spaces for group dining and the contrasting smoothness of river rock crusted cabinets and scalloped baseboards. Cork flooring pads against clicking heels. Latticed wood screens contribute to the gentle flow of the restaurant. A European walnut tree previously cut down was creatively reimagined into an expansive sushi bar counter. “We believe in sustainability, both in our décor and in our food,” notes Dave Talpasz, GM for Dragonfly. Even the restrooms havea zen spa quality, with stall walls of hand-painted gold swirls and stone basins.
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