Saturday, May 16, 2015

Coking lemon preserves with mom

All vegetarian lunch

Mi tomatina

Tuesday supper club

Royal indian

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Garlic at New Smyrna beach

This place is great.... perhaps a little pricey for the average dinner but good for an above average evening. Although, it lacks the ambience of a fine dining establishment. It has all the hallmarks of a restaurant that started out smaller and began to add more to its facility which is evident in its labyrinthine layout. The dining tables for a party of two are uncomfortably small and it gave me the distinct feeling that a maximum number of tables were being crammed into a room just to seat the maximum number of guests to get the maximum revenue for the night. This is something I'm not particularly fond of- an adjacent table merely 1 foot away from your own party of 2.
However, the food was good and more than vindicating for the restaurant. The pork osso bucco  was particularly delicious and is highly recommend. It even stored well in the fridge as take out for 5 days after to slowly graze on.
We didnt order appetizers as the crusty loaves of bread and whole cloves of soft, roasted garlic really started the dinner off to a great note.
They have a fully stocked bar and have an excellent wine selection. Again, something that you would love with great food.
Service was brisk and pleasant on our small table (still cant get over the feeling of being packed-in like sardines). And overall, the experience was good.
Im not sure how to peg this restaurant... its pricey for a casual night but still too informal for a high-end one. And I've been on both sides of the river to know the difference, per say. Menu and prices below with some food pics. Dessert was good but not the best. I'd stick to the main courses if I were you as their menu selections have something deliciously prepared for anyone and everyone (including vegetarians). I'll be back for more another time.
The Garlic on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 27, 2015

Tin Roof- on I-drive by the Orlando eye

This place sounds like it will have a great following once the Orlando Eye opens up. The live entertainment is a great draw for the casual food experience seekers.
I had the brisket nachos and a citrus avocado salad. Both of which were pretty good. Their drinks are decent with some combinations that aren't truly successful, but are drinkable nevertheless.
The brisket nachos were definitely a hit with the white cheesy sauce intermixed very well with nachos. Where other establishments would skimp on this preparation, Tin Roof did it right. I actually enjoyed all the nachos rather than just top portion of the app. Which, in the end, makes the money worth it.
Food pics are attached below. Their website is not extremely user friendly- especially- when all you are digging for is their menu. So, I've attached pictures of those as well.

Tin Roof · A Live Music Joint on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hoover's Market- Altamonte's 40yr-old secret?

So, why haven’t I heard about this alternative to Whole Food’s? Maybe because it’s smaller, more local, and non-franchised?

Plus, it’s not really evident from SR436- even though it’s just a block north on Academy Drive. In fact, it’s very plausible that most people will drive right past this spot without noticing that they are missing out on a part of history.

Hoover’s has been around for 40 years and they still have that mom-n-pop feel to their store. Yes, they have a similar Whole Foods layout to an extent but it’s way smaller. The key difference being the food bar aka the ‘Sunflower Market’ (tucked at the end of the fresh produce section) which just specializes in sandwiches, wraps, juices, soups and a few select homemade items.

The sandwiches are simple and come in an assortment of different bread choices (7-grain, sour dough, and wheat among others) but it’s just a standard slice of bread (nothing gourmet) with any organic toppings that you want (a standard selection of spinach, sprouts, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, etc). They even have vegan cheese. The juices are freshly prepared in front of your eyes. Chicken and pasta salads are also available from time to time while supplies last. I recommend the wraps over the sandwiches because for a dollar more (about $5 and change), you get a lot more bang for your buck (compared to about $4 for a sandwich). The sizes of the wraps are also run bigger and the attendant behind the counter will add ingredients as you wish and bill you accordingly. Well, at least he should. Read on…

Apparently the guy in front of me ordering his food at the counter had gone too far- adding too many vegetables in heaping quantities and extra hummus when he perfectly knew that his wrap would be charged just the same if it had half the ingredients in it. So the attendant bounced back and told him enough is enough. I somehow got caught in the fiasco when the client started throwing a fit aloud that the attendant was out of line. Personally, it’s rare to be caught in a verbal mêlée, so in an attempt to diffuse the situation I politely reminded the client that it is, after all, only a wrap. Arguments and wars have been had over more serious things than extra hummus on a flour tortilla. 

The client didn’t heed to any of my advice and started complaining to everyone and anyone who wanted to hear him. He even stopped Jordan, the assistant manager (who coincidently is the owner’s son) and started complaining over his $5 grievance and using me as a key 'witness' to prove his case. I managed to pry myself out of the dramatic cross-fire and find a spot outside to sit and eat.

And here’s where it got real sweet- the client followed me out and apologized for dragging me into the situation. Moreover, the manager even came over a little bit later and offered me coupons towards my next purchase! He said that he didn’t want that that situation ruin ‘my experience at Hoover’s’- something that I thought was a shining example of what lengths the proprietors here go to ensure customer satisfaction.

IN A NUTSHELL: Crawl behind any whiny, dramatic, and vociferous client that may cause a scene so you may score a discount. Just kidding. Check this place out though for a healthy snack- the Sunflower Market has very modest selections so don’t keep your hopes up for an extravagant Michelin-star meal. Be prepared to wait a little while (especially if the person in front of you has an elaborate saga of an order that comes straight out of telenovela) since things are mostly made-to-order. Smile and thank Dr. Hoover that he raised a good son like Jordan who is ensuring that good business practices are in place for a least another generation.
Hoover's Market - Sunflower Café on Urbanspoon

Ethos: Delicious but a limited variation when it comes to being vegan

I’m gung-ho about veganism more and more each day. Though I don’t think I can possibly ever wean myself off any dairy products completely (I love them), the concept of having more vegetables in my diet in general is something that I have grown to embrace and love. With this growing affection for meatless meals, I decided to try out Ethos for the very first time.

Although they have ‘chickun’ (a vegan substitute for the real thing) on their menu, I steered clear of that hocus-pocus. Rather, I chose meals that were overtly vegan or very close to it. Here’s what I ordered: Pecan- encrusted Eggplant served with asparagus, mashed potatoes and vegan gravy ($12.95), a Hippie Wrap with a side of fresh fruit ($6.95), and a Peak Pomegranate Wheat Draft Beer ($3.50).

The pecan-encrusted eggplant happens to be their signature dish- and it did not disappoint when it came to uniqueness. Not mushy as you would expect eggplants to be, the pecans imparted a crispy, dense coating a very thin slice of eggplant. However, for eggplant lovers, I would not necessarily recommend this dish as it was nowhere reminiscent texturally of eggplant. The red wine sauce was delicious and similar to a berry reduction in consistency. A little more of the sweet sauce would have rescued me easily from the relatively dry crust. I liked the vegan gravy which was slightly salty but flavorful and muddled with complex notes of earthy goodness. The asparagus, which was the vegetable-of-the-day for the dish, was sautéed in very rich-flavored oil.


The Hippie Wrap was a huge success. What was notable here is that the hummus was ground to such a fine, creamy consistency that it almost doubled as a dressing or an aioli! The dish was delightful from start to finish and was very finger-friendly. Lip-smacking good with wonderfully varied vegetable textures bomb-blasting my mouth all at once, I was beside myself. Sprouts, tomatoes, cucumbers, and that supreme hummus spread made this spinach-tortilla wrap one for the books. Simple in its structure and compactness, it is a revelation for anyone that may feign at the idea that vegetables can be boring.


I don’t review beers a lot, but Peak’s Pomegranate Wheat that they had available on draft was excellent. As you can tell from the blog picture, I couldn't control myself long enough to take a picture of a full glass of it. Not too pomegranate-like in flavor, it was floral and smooth. On a hot summer afternoon, this was a fine, cooling refreshment. For people that love Blue Moon or Shock Top, give this organic ale a try.


Even though Ethos is on the main thoroughfare of Fairbanks, it offers a surprisingly small selection of vegan ingredients that have been spun into different dishes. It seems that Ethos has pigeon-holed itself into a ‘comfort food’ cuisine niche rather than offering far more healthier options that veganism can encompass- think amaranth, lentils, or quinoa, for example. These ‘super-grains’ that are renowned to offer what dieticians consider ‘whole-protein’ options that are plant-based rather than what is typically found in meat. Curiously, Ethos does not offer them as part of their daily menu. This is boggling because the cornerstone of any vegan lifestyle is to supplement nutrient-packed meats with equally comparable plant-derived choices.

IN A NUTSHELL: The experience as a whole was delightfully satiating. The meal also didn't sit around in the stomach like a lump of meat usually does (maybe all that fiber IS good for you after all).  I suspected plant-based shortening was used in some of the dish preparations (especially the asparagus) which imparted a lot of flavor, but also some unhealthy saturated fats. ETHOS CAN BE BETTER BY OFFERING EVEN MORE NUTRITIOUS OPTIONS. However, it seems for now that they have resigned to a fate of diner-like staples that have a vegan twist (mac-n-vegan-cheese, vegan-cheese-calzones, etc.) which may be more appropriate for clients that are just trying a vegan lifestyle for the first time. I recommend this venue for first-timers or vegans that are taking their non-vegetarian friends out to dinner.

Ethos Vegan Kitchen on Urbanspoon

House of Pizza: Good food, hope they make it

I was a little dubious about this place. Reviews from previous customers led me to believe that there may be slow service and slow food turnout. It was relieving to note that even thought these claims may be true, they were justified when I visited House of Pizza.

I ordered 10 buffalo wings ($7.99) in the ‘extreme hot’ flavor, a large calzone ($12.99) with broccoli and mozzarella, and a large-size vegetarian specialty pizza ($16.95)

Freshly sliced peppers, sweet red onions, sliced black olives, fresh mushrooms and cubed plum tomatoes festooned the pizza in generous quantities. None of the ingredients overshadowed the other and although I would’ve preferred a fancier olive rather than the standard from-a-can variety, it was pretty tasty. The crust was neither too doughy nor too thin- something that I particularly liked. I thought that this would probably appeal to the masses by striking that delicate doughy line that almost everyone would find little objection towards. The pizza as a whole was not salty or overly seasoned- another bonus. It let the vegetables do all the talking. All in all, a pretty decent pie.

I was equally enamored with the calzone- especially when it arrived lightly glistening with olive oil, oregano, parmesan, and minced garlic that made for a very tantalizing picture (see blog post). The filling (any two toppings of your choice) again was simple and to-the-point where the ingredients talked the talk, and walked the walk.  A side portion of marinara sauce was good for the crusty crescent corners but otherwise unnecessary.

The only thing that I was not happy with was the hot sauce the wings were covered in. Rather than being supremely spicy (as advertized), it was somewhat spicy. The crushed black pepper used in the dish was SO much that it gave the entire dish a granular texture. I’m not sure if they were aiming for spiciness or pepperyness- but those two words are exactly the same. The side cup of ‘bleu cheese dressing’ was in fact more ranch than anything. The wings were cooked well and otherwise fair. On another note, I’m beginning to believe that many establishments in Orlando should discontinue the usage of ‘extreme’ or ‘hell’ or ‘death-wish’ when their spice levels are nowhere near that.

IN A NUTSHELL: It is important to note that you order at the counter, pay, and then sit down and wait for your food to be delivered. Not exactly smart for the waitress to earn her tips when no service has been given prior when paying for the bill with a credit card. They have a soda fountain accessible to guests so you can help yourself to whatever you want (note,  water and lemonade run from the same beverage line so let it run for a little bit before you grab water). The artwork on the walls indicate that the proprietors have some connection to New York City- yet I won’t go as far as claiming that this is a truly New York-style eatery by any means. The dough is made in-house and each ticket is made to order- therefore, it’s no wonder that it takes a little time to make each item! I like this establishment because it’s non-pretentious and what you see is what you taste. Located across from Gatorland, it’s my hope that this joint grows over time to improve on some shortcomings while retaining its overall food philosophy.
House of Pizza on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Raga Restaurant, Bar, Lounge- Part Deux

Rarely do I review a restaurant twice. I am writing about Raga for a second time (the first one has been made on my blog a few weeks previous to this). You might say that I have a soft spot for this establishment or that I really want this place succeed. Either way, you'd be right.

I'm sick and tired of Orlando Indian restaurants being pigeonholed into two different categories: one being a horrible, hole-in-the-wall, with seedy, questionable hygiene practices and the other being too-exotic, unfriendly, and unapproachable to the masses. It's high time Americans got on the bandwagon and made Indian food their new Italian. The U.K. made it their #1 cuisine- so, why can't we at least give it a good try?

Raga seems to be a different breed- good locale, decent service, fine-dining, and a rather (for now) pristine atmosphere. All things that typically work in favor of any burgeoning business. So, I had to go back and give them another shot.

This time around, I intentionally tried a completely different set of food options to see if there would be a difference at all- Peppery Mushrooms (a 'Chef's Signature' item-$16), Nilgiri Tahr Curry ($14), Paneer Elaichi Pasanda ($14), and to round-off the experience a Gulmohar Naan ($4) and Mango Lassi ($3).

The Peppery Mushrooms were with onions and chillies in a peppery soy sauce (just as described on the menu- WOO-HOO!) and they were sublimely addictive. High notes of salt and crisp, lightly sauteed vegetables matched perfectly with the undercurrents of heat from the black pepper. Scallions and cilantro complimented the nutty, earthy bite of crunchy, batter-fried mushrooms. Wonderful in it's umami flavor, it was appropriately highlighted as a signature item. Well done.

The Paneer Elaichi Pasanda was made with 'home-made' paneer (a fact that I can neither confirm nor deny) simmered in a creamy, honey-laced, tomato gravy. The description was close to what was served in front of me- volatile cardamom wafts cutting through the air between the fork and the nose was very tantalizing. Except, the sweetness of the honey didn't come through. Maybe it was eclipsed by the inherent sweetness of the vegetables and the cheese? Not sure. Regardless, this dish didn't sing Old Delhi- it read more like a fusion dish that some people might especially like when they are first introduced to Indian cooking.

The Nilgiri Tahr curry was described as being 'garden fresh vegetables' prepared in a south Indian style with mint and coconut and it was very close to that. Carrots, peas, potatoes, cilantro and even a few cubes of paneer bobbed above the dark greenish-brown curry. The only thing that was apparent and unlike the Paneer Elaichi Pasanda was that this sauce was probably put together (a little coconut chutney here, a little curry sauce there) minutes after the order was put in- rather than something that develops deeper flavor profiles when cooked longer on the stove. Nevertheless, if that was the objective of the dish, then the chefs executed it well.

The Gulmohar Naan was described to be 'stuffed with nuts and raisin paste'. Minced Almonds were present but I barely could taste the raisin paste. Rather, the Naan sang of maraschino cherries that dotted the interior frequently and blotted the bread deep pink wherever they were. Again, not something that was described and not what I was expecting. Did it ruin the bread? Not really, but maraschino cherries should be reserved for culinary 101- remember, these heavily pickled (not to mention chemically dyed) fruit are food-safe, but not exactly the healthiest things on the planet.

In a bizarre flip-flop, the Mango Lassi was rich, thick, and creamy. It even tasted like adequate mango puree was in it- a far cry from the thin, watery Plain Lassi I had a few weeks prior. This leads me to believe that this restaurant may be suffering from finding it's stride in standardizing it's food product-  from table to table as well as day by day. Also, there is a lackadaisical departure from what is promised in the description of the menu (what the customer anticipates his money is going towards) and what really appears on the waiters tray. Again, another chronic problem that a lot of Indian and other restaurants here in Orlando tend to be plagued by.

IN A NUTSHELL: This experience was much better than the previous one. The service was attentive on both occasions- and maybe more so this time around when the server noticed that I was taking notes as I ate every single dish. There was no debacle near the bar as I had seen before and Rajiv pleasantly kept himself productive and unmemorably engrossed in FOH duties. If Raga leaps beyond the chronic problems of menu inconsistency and staying loyal to what they promise to offer, they will strike a vein in the heart of Orlando that most would akin to gold.

Raga Restaurant · Bar · Lounge on Urbanspoon