Central Florida Wine Walks to Sip and Savor

Central Florida Wine Walks to Sip and Savor

Central Florida Wine Walks to Sip and Savor

Whether you’re a novice or budding sommelier, these Central Florida wine walks provide an opportunity to expand your palate and increase your knowledge of vino, often while perusing goods from local businesses and artists. Sip and stroll all over town from the Thornton Park District to Mount Dora and New Smyrna Beach and everywhere in between. Here are a few of our favorites for date nighters.

WineART Wednesday in Downtown Lake Mary

On the first Wednesday of every month from 5-8pm, Central Park in Downtown Lake Mary is transformed into a walkable arts festival. Live music and a spacious craft beer and wine garden set the scene for a relaxing night. Stroll through the park in between sips, stopping to mingle with dozens of artists displaying their work along the way. Hungry? Grab a bite from one of the on site food trucks.

Thornton Park 2nd Thursday Wine and Art Walk

Orlandoans are no strangers to the monthly 2nd Thursday Wine and Art Walk in Thornton Park. More than 25 businesses participate, including area favorites like Soco, The Stubborn Mule, Dexter’s and Maxine’s on Shine. There are also art vendors, DJs and live music throughout the district in between tasting stops. The glass pick up location changes each month, so be sure to check the Facebook event page before attending. The event is also cash only, so come prepared with $15 cash for your glass and map for the evening.

Thornton Park Wine and Art walkImage credit: Hannah Green/visitexplorerepeat on Instagram

Clermont Wine Walk

Bacchus Vino Etcetera, a specialty wine store in historic downtown Clermont, hosts this bi-monthly wine walk. Each month features a fun theme, such as Bastille Day, National Spouses Day and Take a Hike. $15 gets you a glass, map for the evening, door prize entry and a coupon for the wine shop. The next wine walk is November 16 from 6:30-9pm and the theme is Fast Food Day.

Maggie’s Attic Wine Tasting Events

There’s no need to wait for a festival to make your way to Mount Dora. Local wine shop and bar Maggie’s Attic hosts wine tastings on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of each month from 6-8pm. Throughout the evening, you’ll explore seven venues throughout Mount Dora offering tastings of 20+ wines from around the world. Bonus perks include appetizers throughout the walk, and live music at Maggie’s during the event. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased in advance. FYI: your wine glass must be empty while you’re on city sidewalks and streets.

Flagler Avenue Wine Walks

Feel like hitting the coast? Flagler Avenue in New Smyrna Beach is a walkable strip full of restaurants, cute shops and bars lining the streets all the way to the beach. Every month, the streets become home base for the monthly Flagler Avenue Wine Walk. This lively event lasts for a whopping six hours (1-7pm) and invites you to taste up to 20 of the 100+ featured wines available for sampling. Event passports are $25 and include detailed information on tasting stops and wines offered at each. You’ll also get a commemorative wine glass. Bonus: participating restaurants offer dinner specials for participants beginning at 6pm.

Flagler Avenue Wine Walk | Central Florida Wine Walks to Sip and SavorImage credit: Southern Stone Events

Winter Garden Wine Walk: April and November

Winter Garden is fast becoming one of our favorite locales for a date night away from the city thanks to an awesome weekend farmer’s market, Plant Street Market, the West Orange Trail and the unique businesses and restaurants lining Plant Street. The Winter Garden Wine Walks in April and November are another favorite featuring live music, wine tastings at multiple tasting stations, and food pairings. Tickets include a wine glass and guide to the tasting stations. Keep an eye on the Garden Choir Facebook page for upcoming events.

Bok Tower Gardens: Spring and Fall

Bok Tower Gardens may be a bit of a haul from Orlando, but it’s worth the drive, especially if you line up your visit to coincide with one of the fun seasonal events. Each spring and fall, the gardens host a seasonal wine walk where you’re invited to sample 10 curated wines and light bites. After the sampling ends, the after party, featuring live music and dinner specials, begins. Tickets are $25-$30 for non-members. The next Wine Walk is scheduled for March 30, 2019.

Bok Tower Gardens wine walkImage credit: Bok Tower Gardens

Audubon Park Sip and Strolls

Support one of our beloved Orlando Main Street Districts and the small businesses that call the Audubon Park Garden District home. The district hosts three sip and stroll events per year: the Shop Small Sip and Stroll in November (this year’s event is November 24), the Eat Local, Sip Local Stroll in March and the May the Fourth Be With You Stroll in May. Each event features craft beer and wine samples and showcases local businesses and restaurants.

Audubon Park May the Fourth Be With you StrollMay the Fourth Be With You Stroll | Image credit: Audubon Park Garden District

Winter Park Sip, Shop & Stroll

A favorite among Orlando Date Night Guide readers, the annual Winter Park Sip, Shop and Stroll has been continuously voted in the top three for Best Periodic Event in our Annual Date Night Awards. The event invites you to stroll through Park Avenue visiting the area’s top restaurants and boutiques while sipping wine and sampling hors d’oeuvres. Tickets are $25. The 2018 Sip, Shop and Stroll is November 15, 2018 from 5-8pm. Participating vendors this year include Peterbrooke Chocolatier of Winter Park, Cocina 214, Luma on Park, The Ancient Olive, and Umi Japanese Restaurant among others.

Feature image credit: WineART Wednesday

Florida food and travel photographer and writer Stephanie Patterson

About the Author/Photographer:
Stephanie Patterson is the editor of Orlando Date Night Guide. She’s a talented professional food and travel photographer and writer with a passion for creativity, the beach and great eats. When she’s not taking photos or writing, you can find her exploring the state for her Florida travel blog, Travel Taste Click. Find her online at www.spattersoncreative.com and www.traveltasteclick.com.

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Central Florida Wine Walks to Sip and Savor


Hawkers Asian Street Fare launches new fall & winter menu

CRISPY CANTON: Crispy egg noodles, pork, shiitake mushrooms, bean sprouts, spring onions, savory soy sauce

We were invited to Hawkers Asian Street Fare to check out their new fall/winter menu and we were very impressed with our tasty visit.  Fans can experience seven new menu items at all locations now through Spring!

“Our inspiration for the dishes come from our desire to curate a menu that closely reflects what one might find on the streets of Asia.  Authenticity is what we’re focusing on so that we can offer a taste of the unique experiences that we’ve had while eating through the streets of Asia.”  said Kaleb Harrell, Co-Founder of Hawkers Asian Street Fare, pictured below with Co-Founder Allen Lo.


PRAWN CHIPS: Crispy puffed prawn chips dusted with Hawkers’ Five Spice seasoning (only available at the bar)

CHICKA-RONES – (not new but a must try!) Filipino-style crispy chicken skins tossed in jerk seasoning

‘DRY-POT’ CAULILINI: Celery, spring onions, red peppers, Szechuan peppercorn

SALT-N-PEPA RIBS: Crispy pork riblets, ginger, serrano peppers, garlic, onions

ROTI CANAI – (not new) This appetizer is a classic and a must for every Hawkers visit!

SEOUL HOT CHICKEN STEAMED BAOS: Two per order, steamed buns, filled with Seoul hot chicken

SHANGHAI STIR FRY: Steamed rice cakes, pork strips, shiitake mushrooms, spring onions, napa, bean sprouts, lo mein sauce

JO-HÉ BAG O’ DONUTS: Tender pastry puffs rolled into a doughnut shape, deep-fried to perfection and tossed in a cinnamon-sugar

SPIKED THAI TEA – I heard raving reviews about this adult drink from other people at my table.  I ordered mine non-alcoholic and it was still super delicious!

To find the location closest to you, please visit eathawkers.com/locations/

Hawkers Asian Street Fare launches new fall & winter menu


Happy Hour Test Drive: The Hangry Bison

Happy Hour Test Drive: The Hangry Bison

Park Avenue may get all the attention when it comes to dining in Winter Park, but nearby Orlando Avenue is a tasty alternative with new restaurants opening frequently. One such newcomer is The Hangry Bison, a local hangout in Winter Park Village specializing in beer, bourbon and burgers.

This open-air, walkable shopping and dining complex is tried and true for date night, but it’s also an ideal location for after-work happy hour hopping with your favorite dining buddy. And The Hangry Bison is a stop you’ll certainly want to add to your itinerary.

Happy hour, cleverly renamed Hangry Hour, is served Monday – Thursday from 4-7pm and Friday from 4-6pm. Provisions include a selection of $6 appetizers alongside nine drink options ranging in price from $3-$8.

We were invited to check out the offerings during a hosted happy hour and fortunately didn’t leave hangry.

DRINKS

The happy hour drink menu is one of the largest I’ve come across in recent memory. Pick your spirit of choice from beer to wine and craft cocktails (which The Hangry Bison calls “Craftails”) to spirits and well cocktails.

The full lineup includes four $8 craftail selections: the bacon and coffee infused Old Fashioned with Old Forester Bourbon, Orlando City El Jimador margarita, Effen Mule or Effen Cucumber martini, and Stoli craft cocktails.

The Hangry Bison happy hourBacon and Coffee infused Old Fashioned with Old Forester Bourbon ($8)

Beyond the craftails, happy hour includes $5 Old Forester bourbon, $5 single well cocktails, $5 select wines by the glass, $5 select pints and $3 Miller Lite bottles.

The Hangry Bison Happy HourSelect drinks are $3 – $8 during happy hour.

FOOD

Five appetizers priced at $6 each are offered during happy hour, three of which are flatbreads (two are exclusive to happy hour). The remaining options are bourbon wings and fried green tomatoes.

This is somewhat standard happy hour fare, true, but each dish was delicious and I especially enjoyed the smoky sweet bourbon glaze on the wings. You won’t want to share.

The Hangry Bison happy hour bourbon wingsBourbon Wings ($6)

We also sampled the caprese flatbread, a no-fail choice that tastes especially fresh in the late summer months, even more so if you pair it with the refreshing Effen Moscow mule mentioned above.

The Hangry Bison happy hourCaprese Flatbread ($6)

Another favorite, the fried green tomatoes come drizzled with a basil aioli sauce I couldn’t get enough of. After gobbling up our first order, we quickly ordered another to share.

While you could technically fill up on appetizers alone, The Hangry Bison’s burgers are a signature offering. While burgers aren’t included in the happy hour menu, consider ordering one of the hand-crafted burger creations along with a few happy hour drinks and appetizers for a hearty date night meal. You can even build your own custom burger if your heart desires.

Hangry Bison happy hourHouse made Fried Green Tomatoes: flash fried and drizzled with basil aioli ($6)

THE GRADE

Drinks: Whether you’re sipping on a budget or indulging in a craft cocktail, the drinks are fairly priced from $3 – $8 and run the gamut from signature cocktails to well drinks, beer, bourbon and wine.

Food: The happy hour nibbles are of the standard happy hour variety (think wings and flatbreads), but each dish is a significant step above traditional bar food. Even wings get an upgrade with a heavenly bourbon glaze. Burgers are a menu mainstay though, and it’d be super to have some slider options on the happy hour menu.

Setting: Beer, burgers and bourbon may have you envisioning a laid back bar setting, but The Hangry Bison is full of upscale details sure to impress your date.

The Hangry Bison scores an A-. The drink menu is especially robust and those chicken wings are worthy of a return trip soon. Plus, The Hangry Bison is conveniently located right across from the Regal movie theater, so why not extend the evening to include a movie after your meal?

The Hangry Bison Winter Park Village

DETAILS

The Hangry Bison
480 N Orlando Ave.
Winter Park, FL 32789
thehangrybison.com

Happy hour, dubbed Hangry Hour, is served Monday – Thursday from 4-7pm and Friday from 4-6pm.

Want more happy hour info? Check out our guide to Orlando Happy Hours.

Disclosure: The Hangry Bison is one of our valued advertising partners. This meal was provided by The Hangry Bison at no cost to the writer.
 

Florida food and travel photographer and writer Stephanie Patterson

About the Author/Photographer:
Stephanie Patterson is the managing editor of Orlando Date Night Guide. She’s a talented professional food and travel photographer and writer with a passion for creativity, the beach and great eats. When she’s not taking photos or writing, you can find her exploring the state for her Florida travel blog, Travel Taste Click. Find her online at www.spattersonphotography.com and www.traveltasteclick.com.

All photos by Stephanie Patterson

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First Look: The H Cuisine in Dr. Phillips

We were invited to attend the grand opening ribbon cutting ceremony of the new The H Cuisine, located in the Marketplace at Dr. Phillips.  The interior was stunning, the food was really good and the service was perfection!

“The H Cuisine offers a diverse Mediterranean menu prepared by chefs with international experience, gained from working at some of the finest restaurants around the world. Combined, they have traveled to more than 70 countries to learn about different tastes, foods and ingredients, and bring what they have learned from these culinary adventures to Orlando.

The open kitchen counter allows guest to enjoy different styles of fire cooking methods and feel the warmth of the live fire as they watch the chefs preparing exclusive menu items.  Guests can also enjoy table-side experiences with the chefs when they order select items from the menu.

The bar at The H Cuisine serves a wide range of domestic and imported beverages, including beer, wine, raki and cocktails with premium liquor options available.   Coffee enthusiasts will love another signature menu item at The H – Turkish coffee.

The H Cuisine is the perfect new spot for local and visiting foodies, business, convention and group meetings, and life celebrations.” -The H Cuisine


The H Cuisine offers indoor and outdoor seating.


The H Cuisine is owned by local entrepreneurs, Ahmet Ozhamurkar (left) and Fuat Hasaglu (right).




Co-owner Fuat Hasaglu with his son.


Chef Duran with the amazing wait staff.


Chef Duran with the talented kitchen staff.






Rack of lamb

Tenderloin

Burrata with cherry tomato and micro greens

Steak tartare with bone marrow, so delicious.

Sweet bread with veal brains – incredibly healthy and good for you.

Amazing presentation from Chef Duran.

Lamb.

Steak spaghetti, so delicious and melts in your mouth.

Chateau filet – amazing!

We were invited back to The H Cuisine for a more intimate meal with Chef Duran.

Chateau filet


The complimentary house appetizer is Turkish yogurt with whipped fried mint, topped with olive oil and “gypsy bread”.

Strozzapreti – “The Priest Strangler” pasta recipe from Emilia – Romagna.  Served with “Flaming Parmesan Wheel” sauce.

I’m very excited to have this new food experience to the Central Florida area.  You must check them out soon!

The H Cuisine 
7512 Dr. Phillips Blvd, Suite #80, Orlando, FL
(407) 930-3020
thehcuisine.com

http://tastychomps.com/2018/09/first-look-the-h-cuisine-in-dr-phillips.html


5 Hidden Gem Lounges and Bars at Disney for Date Night

Hidden Gem Lounges and Bars at Disney

Walt Disney World is filled with magic and endless fun for everyone. But the when the evening comes (or any time of day for that matter) and the adults want to wind down, there are some fabulous lounges and bars at Disney that are perfect for a drink and getting away from the crowds.

Whether you’re staying at a Walt Disney World resort or just hopping over for date night, you are not going to want to miss these hidden gem bars. Luckily for you, you won’t even need a park ticket!

The Edison

The Edison is one of the most interesting restaurants at Disney Springs. During the day The Edison boasts a family friendly atmosphere, but when night falls a transformation happens and the restaurants turns into a bustling bar, complete with a live band, aerialists, and more entertainment.

WHAT TO TRY

When it comes to food and drinks, The Edison’s menu is extensive and everyone will find something they love! For food I recommend the DB ‘Clothesline Candied Bacon’ and Electri-Fries for sharing. With a drink menu that serves everything from hand-crafted cocktails to beer and wine by the glass, it can be a little overwhelming to pick just one drink. I love the Samantha Sterling, which is made with Grey Goose vodka, lillet rose, lime, watermelon juice and cinnamon cordial.

The Edison food at Disney SpringsImage credit: The Edison

Terralina Crafted Italian

Terralina Crafted Italian is one of the newest restaurants at Disney Springs, but they’ve already made a splash in creating a place guests want to be. With a huge outdoor patio bar (pictured in feature image) and happy hour most nights, Terralina is one of the best deals at Disney Springs. Happy hour is Sunday – Thursday from 4-6pm on the veranda, followed later by the Night Cap happy hour from 9-11pm. The late night happy hour includes $5.00 beers and half-price wines by the glass.

WHAT TO TRY

The bartenders are very knowledgeable about each wine and beer on the restaurant’s extensive list, so they can help you make a decision. The Cantele Negroamaro Rosato Rosé is one of my favorites. And during happy hour it’s only $5 a glass! For food, you cannot go to Terralina without getting the crispy eggplant fries or the burrata.

Terralina Crafted ItalianEggplant fries | Image credit: Terralina Crafted Italian

Crew’s Cup Lounge

If you’re hanging out at Epcot or Hollywood Studios and are looking for a chill place to escape the theme park hustle and bustle, head over to Disney’s Yacht Club Resort to Crew’s Cup Lounge. This quiet little bar serves up some of the best drinks and food at Walt Disney World in a cozy atmosphere.

WHAT TO TRY

The menu for drinks and snacks is small, but well curated. To drink, I recommend the truffle olive martini for something you won’t see on other menus across Walt Disney World. Then for snacks I love the baked cheese dip, which comes to the table warm and bubbling, with a nice array of dippers.

Crew’s Cup Lounge | Image credit: Walt Disney World Resort

The Wave

Located just steps away from Magic Kingdom at Disney’s Contemporary Resort (an easy stop on a DIY monorail pub crawl), The Wave has a huge bar that’s first come, first served, with welcoming bar tenders and the same menu guests can enjoy at a table in the restaurant. The bar is where it’s at though, with drinks made right in front of you, and appetizers to enjoy while chatting with friends.

WHAT TO TRY

The drink menu is well done, and the best drink to try is the Godiva Chocolate Martini, especially if you’re just headed here for dessert, as this drink is on the sweeter side. If you’re going to want to stick with the dessert theme at The Wave, we love the chocolate flight, which features three small chocolate desserts!

Seven Seas Lagoon cocktail at the Wave | Image credit: Stephanie Patterson

Victoria Falls Lounge

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of our favorite resorts to explore, and when you’re done exploring everything there is to do, head over to Victoria Falls Lounge right above Boma at Jambo House. Their specialty cocktails and decent sized appetizer menu is the perfect way to wrap up a Disney day.

WHAT TO TRY

I love the sweet and spicy chicken wings and the goat cheese dip for something a little different than you can get at other locations. As for drinks, the bar staff has put together a strong cocktail list, including a few you can only get at the Victoria Falls Lounge. Our favorite is the Victoria Falls Mist, it’s sweet without tasting like candy, and the use of tangerine liquor is unique.

Victoria Falls Lounge | Image credit: Walt Disney World Resort

Be sure to let us know what you think of these locations after you try them out, and always drink responsibly.

About the Author

Megan is a Florida native with a love for all things Disney and running. She thinks you can tell a lot about someone by the name of their signature lipstick, and hers is NARS Dragon Girl. You can follow Megan on Twitter @megand513 and on Instagram @minglingwithmickey where she dishes out the most recent Disney news and tips for the perfect park day!

Feature image credit: Terralina Crafted Italian

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The Ritz-Carlton Orlando’s pool bar, Bleu, introduces new Latin & Caribbean-inspired menu

Fresh and delicious piña colada.

We were invited to The Ritz-Carlton for an end of the summer pool bash at Bleu Pool Bar showcasing their new Latin & Caribbean inspired menu.  The food was excellent and the service was phenomenal.  The frozen drinks are always prepared with the freshest ingredients.

BLEU Nachos – Green Chile / Queso Blanco / Jalapeños / Cilantro Crema Guacamole / Pico de Gallo Roasted Salsa



Signature Tacos – Grilled Flour Tortilla / Cilantro Slaw / Roasted Salsa / Crema / Queso Fresco / Pique Verde

Carne Asada – Papaya-Marinated Skirt Steak

Chicken Verde – Roasted Chicken

Crispy Avocado – Tempura-Fried Avocado


BLEU Salad – Mixed Greens / Spiced Tostone / Heirloom Tomatoes / Feta / Crispy Quinoa / Breakfast Radish / Pickled Sweet Onion / Passion Fruit Dressing


Florida Tropical – 
Spinach & Lolla Rossa / Avocado / Mango / Pomegranate / Almonds / Creamy Coconut-Lime Vinaigrette


Conch Fritters – Homemade Jamaican Jerk Aioli


Ceviche – 
Ahi Tuna / Avocado / Mango Salsa / Plantain Chips



Make Your Own Sweet Taco – Assorted Toppings

Tada!!!  What a beautiful ice sculpture!

Be sure to check out the new menu at Bleu the next time you are at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando!

Bleu at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando
4012 Central Florida Parkway Orlando, FL 32837
(407) 206-2400
ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/florida/orlando/dining/bleu

The Ritz-Carlton Orlando’s pool bar, Bleu, introduces new Latin & Caribbean-inspired menu


Happy 5th Anniversary, The Alfond Inn!

Seared Grouper Papparadelle – housemade pappardelle pasta, fresh peas, asparagus, pecan bacon, parmigian cheese broth

We were invited to The Alfond Inn for an exclusive press preview featuring a Hamilton’s Kitchen new menu tasting with Chef Stephen Doyle, a happy hour art tour of newly installed art as part of the Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art with new Cornell Fine Arts Museum Curator Gisela Carbonell, and a champagne toast finale in the Conservatory, in honor of The Alfond Inn’s 5th anniversary on Saturday, Aug.18.

In the last five years, The Alfond Inn has made it on:

  • Travel + Leisure Best 100 Hotels in the World
  • Travel + Leisure Top 15 Best City Hotels in the Continental U.S.
  • U.S. News & World Report Top Hotels in Orlando, Condé Nast Traveler
  • Readers’ Choice Awards Top 10 Hotels in the U.S.
  • Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards Gest Hotels in Florida
  • AAA Four Diamond Award
  • Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence

Walnut Crusted Halibut – orzo pasta, petite spinach, lemon-dill Amish butter

Lemon Sage Chicken Gnocchi – Lake Meadows Chicken, basil-ricotta gnocchi, summer vegetables, lemon-herb butter sauce

Colorado Lamb Lollipop Chops – local mushroom risotto, balsamic maple bliss glaze, caramelized Brussels sprouts

Thank you for the invite, Kathy Hernandez & thank you for hosting us, The Alfond Inn!

The Alfond Inn
300 E New England Avenue, Winter Park, FL 32789
thealfondinn.com
(407) 278-8159

Happy 5th Anniversary, The Alfond Inn!


Happy Hour Test Drive: Tapa Toro

Happy Hour Test Drive: Tapa Toro

Don’t be fooled; International Drive isn’t all tourist attractions and chain restaurants. While this stretch of Orlando is popular with tourists, there’s plenty for us locals to enjoy, including lively restaurants like Tapa Toro, a Spanish restaurant located within walking distance of fun date night activities.

Hiding in plain sight just a stone’s throw from the towering ICON Orlando ferris wheel, Tapa Toro is a destination itself, with nightly flamenco dancing performances, an upbeat atmosphere (it’s impossible not to dance in your chair as Shakira tunes boom from the speakers) and, as we recently discovered, a pretty awesome happy hour.

During happy hour, served daily in the bar area from 3-6pm, you and your date can feast on nine tapas selections priced at $2 – $7 each while sipping half-priced drinks like red and white sangria, beer, and house wine.

DRINKS

When at a Spanish restaurant, indulging in a glass (or two) of sangria is a given. Luckily for you, sangria (red and white only) is half off during happy hour ($4/glass).

Tapa Toro happy hourRed and White Sangria ($4/glass)

I started with the white, which was a refreshing antidote to the Central Florida heat after the short but sweltering walk from the free parking garage to the restaurant. I loved the subtle citrus flavor and simple fruit garnishes. The red sangria was my personal favorite, fruity yet slightly dry and all too easy to quickly slurp down.

Other drink specials during happy hour include half off cocktail pitchers, beer, house wine and 2-for-1 single liquor drinks.

FOOD

There are a total of nine tapas to choose from on the happy hour menu, each with their own flare. While most dishes are large enough to share, there are a few you’ll want to order just for yourself (some based on dish size, others based on the fact you won’t want to share).

Of the five dishes we sampled during our visit, the fall-apart pork belly dish ($5) was the best. Topped with pepitas and served with a seasonal jam (banana during the time of our visit), local honey and a light arugula salad, it was so good we couldn’t help but order another. This is definitely a dish you won’t want to share, so order two.

Tapa Toro happy hourPork Belly ($5): crispy pork belly, local honey, seasonal nuts

Inventive tapas like the lamb sliders ($7) and beautifully plated mini empanada are unique options if you’re tired of the same old happy hour bites. The former is a burger patty made with ground lamb smothered with cilantro yogurt and a pickled cucumber, lending a Mediterranean flavor.

The empanada ($2) is bite-sized which came as a surprise, but the small serving was packed with chickpeas, tomato, potatoes and that heavenly cilantro yogurt for dipping. It’s also vegetarian-friendly, along with the fierce potatoes ($4) and chilled soup ($4).

Tapa Toro happy hourSliders ($7): ground lamb, cilantro yogurt, pickled cucumber Tapa Toro happy hourEmpanada ($2): chickpeas, tomato, potatoes, cilantro yogurt

Gluten-free options include the potatoes with chorizo ($5), a breakfast-like dish comprised of tender potatoes, chorizo and topped with a perfectly fried egg; the mussels with chorizo ($6); fierce potatoes and pork belly. I extend kudos to Tapa Toro for including so many options on the happy hour menu for those with dietary restrictions.

Tapa Toro happy hourPotatoes with Chorizo ($5): chorizo, potatoes, fried egg

The remaining happy hour tapas include 3 meatballs served with tomato sauce and polenta ($5) and ham croquettes ($5).

While happy hour only lasts until 6pm, the nightly flamenco performances begin at 7pm. Consider arriving closer to the tail end of happy hour, lingering over a few drinks and tapas, and then sticking around for dinner and a show afterwards.

Tapa Toro happy hourMeatballs ($5): beef meatballs, tomato sauce, polenta

THE GRADE

Drinks: The sangria pours are generous and you can’t beat $4 a glass.

Food: Whatever you do, don’t skip the pork belly. Go ahead and order two, you won’t regret it! Each dish was delicious and plated beautifully, no matter how large or small. If I had to change one thing, it’d be tweaking the portion sizes to be slightly larger for easier sharing.

Setting: You’ll be dancing in your seat to the Latin music bumping overhead while taking in the stunning décor, feasting on the endlessly flowing tapas and sipping sangria. Trust us, Tapa Toro will totally impress your date.

Tapa Toro scores an A-. The lively atmosphere and unique dishes make this restaurant a fun choice for a date that won’t break the bank. You can order a handful of tapas to share plus two glasses of sangria each for less than $50. Stick around after for the flamenco show beginning at 7pm, or head to the ICON Orlando for a ride.

Tapa Toro
8441 International Drive
Orlando, FL 32819
https://tapatoro.restaurant

Happy hour is served daily in the bar from 3-6pm. Check out the full menu here.

All photos by Stephanie Patterson

Disclosure: Tapa Toro provided gift cards for this meal at no cost to the writer. Tapa Toro is one of our valued advertising partners.

Tapa Toro on International Drive in Orlando

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Franciacorta Masterclass & Dinner

We were invited to La Tavola, which are Italian dinners based on its culture and cuisine. Well- known local chef Kevin Fonzo, formerly of K Restaurant, prepared fresh cooked Italian dishes that were paired with Franciacorta – currently the best “sparkling wine” in Italy.

There were five flights of wine. The first four flights consisted of two wines and the fifth was a single wine. Here is the menu as follows:

Wine Flight 1– DOCG Franciacorta La Valle Naturalis Extra Brut 2012 & DOCG Franciacorta Ricci Curbastaro Extra Brut

Wine Flight 2– DOCG Franciacorta Lo Sparviere Saten & DOCG Franciacorta Villa Franciacorta Saten 2013

Wine Flight 3– DOCG Franciacorta Majolini Brut & DOCG Franciacorta Ronco Calino Brut 2010

Wine Flight 4– DOCG Franciacorta Bonafidini Opera Rose & DOCG Franciacorta Antica Fratta Essence Rose 2011

Franciacorta: Flight 5 – DOCG Franciacorta Ferghettina Pas Dosé ‘Riserva 33’ 2010

Cheese, pastrami,sliced bread, olives, and roasted peppers were set on the table as a warm up. 
Here is a look at the dishes that were prepared and served by Chef Fonzo.

The chef says he chose these dishes because it was more about feeling comfortable at the table and the food went with every kind of wine. It’s like going to an Italian grandmother’s house on a Sunday.  He wanted it to be casual and encourage conversation.

“To me all the food tonight was from the heart. It’s food I grew up on,” says Fonzo. He is from New York but his grandparents are from Italy. His favorite dish that he served was the the tomato sauce and meatballs because that’s his comfort food. 

 Rashmi Primlani, creator of The Primlani Kitchen and presenter of the dinner shares her thoughts, “Italy is an enchanting land of endless discoveries, dreams, & vino.  Like India, Italy is one country where regionality is not only accepted, it is encouraged, revered, and passionately pursued.”

“What makes Italy particularly alluring is unlike the yuppies of the west, who voluntarily surrendered tradition for consumerism; Italians, including the champions of change, the younger generation, confidently and with great pride wear their cultural identity as a comfortable cloak or second skin, while crusading their local region onto contemporary stature. Speaking of Italian Wine, Franciacorta – Italy’s leading sparkling wine region’s quality conscientious producers, driven by passion and unwavering pursuit of perfection, undeterred by the wind or fashion, are forging exhilarating beauties dipped in sensuality and finesse. The single recurring note that dance in our minds – Franciacortais so much more than simply a toasting wine, it indisputably belongs on the dining table as every day affordable luxury, that marries well with all international cuisines, be it a family style meal or 12 course gourmand culinary experience. It’s our duty to share the love for Franciacorta!”

At the end the night, Fonzo brought out some fruits and sweets along with different cheeses as something light on the stomach since we all ate until our bellies were full. There was no strict pairing as we could mix and match freely to our liking.

It was a night well spent with other local food and wine lovers. We laughed, mingled and shared moments together as we broke bread around the large wooden table. It was an intimate and homey experience. The wine had an approachable taste and it’s true, it can be served with anything or you can drink it alone. It is not too harsh and the sparkling aspect gives it an enjoyable bounce and personality that you’ll love.

 

Facts about Franciacorta Wine as provided by the Franciacorta Blend of Passions presentation – 

The 1st Italian Sparkling Wine
produced exclusively through
second fermentation in bottle
to gain DOCG in 1995.

As for its current market: 

  • 117 producers
    • 19 townships included in the Franciacorta area (including
    municipality of Brescia)
    • 2,800 hectares of vineyards producing Franciacorta DOCG
    • 82% Chardonnay, 14% Pinot Nero, 4% Pinot Bianco
    • 350 hectares of vineyards producing Curtefranca DOC
    • 16.5 million bottles sold in 2015, 1.5 million of them abroad
    • The leading export market was Japan, which accounts for
    22% of the total exports, Switzerland and USA.

http://tastychomps.com/2018/08/franciacorta-masterclass-dinner.html


Our Favorite Cocktail Bars by Neighborhood

Our Favorite Orlando Cocktail Bars by Neighborhood - photo by Jillian Quain Photography

The only similarity between Orlando’s craft cocktail purveyors is that they are all creative. Aside from that, each possesses their own unique approach to liquid concoctions. Regardless of where in The City Beautiful your date night is taking place, there is bound to be a local spot nearby where you can enjoy an outstanding drink or two. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite Orlando cocktail bars throughout the city and included happy hour information where applicable. Cheers!

The Matador

Situated adjacent to Santiago’s Bodega, The Matador is a must try for any cocktail aficionado. The space is filled with vintage furniture and decor, and the vibe is cool without being pretentious. However, the front patio is the best seat in the house. Here you can enjoy the breeze and do some people watching. While you sip your drinks, partake in a game of pool, free of charge. The cocktail menu contains classics like an Old Fashioned or Gin & Tonic, as well as classics with a twist such as their spin on a Tom Collins spiced up with blackberry hibiscus syrup.

The Matador | Photo credit: Chris Martin

Ivanhoe Craft Bar & Packy

Part liquor store, part bar, Ivanhoe Craft Bar & Packy is a hidden gem and a stellar place for date night drinks. The atmosphere is relaxed and the beautiful chandelier above the vintage couches adds a touch of elegance. Their cocktails consist of everything from gin to bourbon to whiskey, and even coffee cocktails using Foxtail Coffee. The menu rotates seasonally, but some past favorites include the Biscayne Sunrise and Professor Plum’s Guilty Conscience. Closed Sunday and Monday.

M Lounge & M Bar

One of the newest additions to the cocktail scene, M Lounge and M Bar opened in Ivanhoe Village about a year and a half ago inside Majors Motors. Upstairs is M Lounge, a stunning rooftop bar overlooking Orange Avenue. For those looking for a more upscale cocktail experience, M Lounge is where you need to be. A late night happy hour is available Saturdays from 11pm-1am. On Wednesdays you can take advantage of all night happy hour specials (like $6 house spirits) from 6pm-1am.

M Bar is located on the first floor and is lined with classic cars, leather couches and a classic car-shaped pool table. There is ample seating and a selection of whiskey-based cocktails. This indoor space is great for those rainy afternoons, allowing you to admire the rare automobiles while having some drinks. Happy hour is Wednesday-Saturday from 4-8pm.

Note: Both bars are open Wednesday-Saturday. M Bar opens at 4pm and M Lounge opens at 6pm. Be sure to take advantage of the complimentary valet parking.

Best New Orlando Bars - M Lounge

Lil’ Indies

Located adjacent to Will’s Pub, Lil’ Indies (pictured in feature image) is a staple in the Orlando drink scene. The space is decorated with interesting couches and antique decor. Snuggle up on a couch with a drink and partake in date night conversation, or catch a live music act. Happy hour specials are available every day from 4-8pm. During happy hour, sip drinks from the classic cocktail menu for $7, or order up 2-4-1 single well drinks. The menu changes seasonally, so come back often to see what’s new.

The Guesthouse

The Guesthouse is the perfect combination of relaxing vibes and great cocktails. And it’s located next door to one of our favorite local taco spots, Black Rooster Taqueria (hello, double date). The decor is minimalistic, and the gorgeous lit-up bar located in the center of the room immediately grabs your attention. For those cool summer nights, opt to sit out back and enjoy drinks from the bar’s Airstream. There are plenty of tables and seating where you can relax while you sip. The menu includes both classic and tiki drinks, but if you’re feeling more adventurous, skip the menu and have your bartender make you something special.

Orlando cocktail bars by neighborhoodThe Guesthouse | Image credit: Arlene Laboy

Hanson’s Shoe Repair & Bauhaus

Downtown Orlando’s iconic Hanson building is thought to be the city’s oldest building, also home to Orlando’s first electric sign. The building now houses two unique cocktail bars. Downstairs you’ll find Bauhaus, an intimate, upscale cocktail bar. If you’re feeling adventurous, ask your bartender to make you a custom cocktail based on your favorite spirit and flavor profile. Hanson’s Shoe Repair is located upstairs, and is a speakeasy requiring a password for entry. Check their Twitter page for the daily password.

Bauhaus downtown OrlandoImage credit: Bauhaus

The Courtesy

The Courtesy has been serving stellar cocktails to locals and visitors in downtown Orlando for years. The cozy space can get tight on weekend nights, but the inventive cocktails keep us coming back. On select Mondays you’ll be able to experience the “Directors Dram” menu. The bar crafts 4-5 drinks themed after films from well-known movie directors such as Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher while simultaneously screening movies from the featured director of the evening. Happy Hour is offered Tuesday-Friday from 5-8pm, and Sundays starting at 3pm. Specials include their famous Happy Hour Punch ($4) as well as your choice of Tommy’s Margarita, Old Fashioned, Daiquiri, or a Martini for $7. Cocktail classes are offered every first and third Saturday of the month.

Mathers Social Gathering

Luckily, we’ve never had to try sneaking alcohol. However, if you want to know what it was like to grab a drink during prohibition, Mathers is the spot to tip a few. This speakeasy-style bar has a secret entrance and instantly transports you back in time while adding modern elements and perfectly crafted cocktails. Social Hour is Tuesday-Saturday from 4-7pm, where guests can enjoy half priced drinks (including the delicious frosé). Closed Sunday and Monday.

Orlando cocktail bars: Mathers Social GatheringMathers Frose | Image credit: Arlene Laboy

Pharmacy Orlando

The Pharmacy offers one of the most unique cocktail experiences in Orlando. Their theme extends from the drinks (called Elixirs) to the bartenders being referred to as Apothecaries, helping to treat any ailment you may have. Like Mathers, Pharmacy has a secret entrance, an unmarked elevator that opens up to their amazing space. Try to visit during happy hour, available Tuesday-Thursday from 5-6:30pm. You’ll be able to take advantage of a selection of craft cocktails (plus the entire dinner menu excluding dessert) offered at half price. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Happy Hour Test Drive: Pharmacy OrlandoImage credit: Stephanie Patterson

Bitters & Brass

Sanford is home to a growing drink scene, with a number of breweries and cocktail bars serving fantastic drinks. Bitters & Brass’ menu includes classics as well as seasonal cocktails, but for a real treat try out one of their originals. They also offer cocktail classes regularly, where newbies can learn how to craft three fantastic cocktails from one of their experts. Closed Mondays.

The Imperial at Washburn Imports

Much like their Ivanhoe location, The Imperial at Washburn Imports combines great drinks with rare furniture from all over the world. Their happy hour specials are available Tuesday-Saturday from 5-7pm, offering a selection of cocktails for $8. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Feature image credit: Lil’ Indies / photo by Jillian Quain Photography

Related Posts

Our Favorite Cocktail Bars by Neighborhood


Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen & Bar in The Villages

Guy’s Award-Winning Burger!  Voted “Best Burger in Las Vegas“ by Seven Magazine & Won New York City Food and Wine Festival’s Burger Bash
Bacon Mac N’ Cheese Burger – Crispy smoked bacon, six-cheese mac ’n cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, crispy onions, donkey sauce, garlic-buttered brioche bun

We were invited to Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen & Bar in The Villages to check out their revamped menu.  Some of the new menu items includes Baja Fish Tacos, Jack Daniels New York Strip Steak, Big Bite Burrito and the Old School Steak Sandwich.   Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen & Bar has also made several other improvements.  They have lowered everyday menu prices, introduced daily specials, and rolled out a new Sunday brunch menu.

“On Sundays We Brunch” will be hosted every Sunday from 10am-3pm with prices ranging from $5.95 to $12.95.   The new Sunday brunch menu includes Chicken Fried Bacon, Biscuits & Gravy, the All–American Breakfast Burger, as well as some of Guy Fieri’s signature dishes.  Guests also have the option to make their brunch bottomless with unlimited mimosas and bloody marys for only $15.  The bottomless option has a two-hour limit.

The restaurant’s owner Greg Panzo is the same owner as the newly-opened Cinco Tacos & Tequila in Winter Park, FL which just celebrated their ribbon cutting ceremony on National Tequila Day this past Tuesday.

Trash Can Nachos – Warm corn tortilla chips, pulled pork, bourbon brown sugar, BBQ sauce, SMC (super melty cheese), cheddar, beans, jalapenos, crema, pickled red onion, cilantro, pico de gallo

Roasted Garlic Hummus – Scratch-made chickpea hummus, olive tapemade, fire roasted red peppers, herb grilled flatbread, fresh veggies

Guy’s Big Island Punch – Southern Comfort, Dragonberry Rum, Dark Rum, orange, pineapple, mango, lime, cherry

Tattooed Mojito – Coconut Rum, lime, blueberries, mint, ginger ale

*NEW* Baja Fish Tacos – Crunchy panko-crusted cod, cole slaw, chipotle ranch, pico de gallo on a warm tortilla

*NEW* Jack Daniel’s New York Strip Steak – 12 oz New York strip seared, mash potatoes, side of wonder fries, bacon, sour cream, cheddar, broccolini, mushrooms, scallions, Jack Daniel sauce  

(Source: Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen & Bar)

Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen & Bar at Lake Sumter Landing
1045 Old Camp Rd, The Villages, FL 32162
(352) 633-3018
guysvillages.com

Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen & Bar in The Villages


Upcoming Events

  1. 2018 Fall Family Festival

    October 12 @ 3:00 pm - November 14 @ 1:00 pm UTC+0
  2. Miami/Brickell Festival of the Arts

    October 20, 2018 @ 7:00 pm - January 15, 2019 @ 6:00 pm UTC+0
  3. NOVEMBERFEST 2018

    November 14 @ 4:00 pm - November 18 @ 8:00 pm UTC+0
  4. SpaKitty Dinner

    November 14 @ 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm UTC+0
  5. The Festival of Trees

    November 15 @ 4:00 pm - 8:00 pm UTC+0
  6. FIU’s 32nd Festival of the Trees

    November 15 @ 6:30 pm - 9:30 pm UTC+0
  7. School Day at the 2018 Florida Tiny House MUSIC Festival

    November 16 @ 9:00 am - 12:00 pm UTC+0
  8. 10th Annual OrlandoJobs.com Job Fair and Career Expo

    November 16 @ 11:00 am - 3:00 pm UTC+0
  9. Florida Tiny House Music Festival (3rd Annual)

    November 16 @ 12:00 pm - November 18 @ 6:00 pm UTC+0
  10. Orlando Balloon Glow

    November 16 @ 5:00 pm - November 18 @ 10:00 pm UTC+0

Upcoming Events

  1. 2018 Fall Family Festival

    October 12 @ 3:00 pm - November 14 @ 1:00 pm UTC+0
  2. Miami/Brickell Festival of the Arts

    October 20, 2018 @ 7:00 pm - January 15, 2019 @ 6:00 pm UTC+0
  3. NOVEMBERFEST 2018

    November 14 @ 4:00 pm - November 18 @ 8:00 pm UTC+0
  4. SpaKitty Dinner

    November 14 @ 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm UTC+0
  5. The Festival of Trees

    November 15 @ 4:00 pm - 8:00 pm UTC+0
  6. FIU’s 32nd Festival of the Trees

    November 15 @ 6:30 pm - 9:30 pm UTC+0
  7. School Day at the 2018 Florida Tiny House MUSIC Festival

    November 16 @ 9:00 am - 12:00 pm UTC+0
  8. 10th Annual OrlandoJobs.com Job Fair and Career Expo

    November 16 @ 11:00 am - 3:00 pm UTC+0
  9. Florida Tiny House Music Festival (3rd Annual)

    November 16 @ 12:00 pm - November 18 @ 6:00 pm UTC+0
  10. Orlando Balloon Glow

    November 16 @ 5:00 pm - November 18 @ 10:00 pm UTC+0

Join our Fun Network

  1. 2018 Fall Family Festival

    October 12 @ 3:00 pm - November 14 @ 1:00 pm UTC+0
  2. Miami/Brickell Festival of the Arts

    October 20, 2018 @ 7:00 pm - January 15, 2019 @ 6:00 pm UTC+0
  3. NOVEMBERFEST 2018

    November 14 @ 4:00 pm - November 18 @ 8:00 pm UTC+0
  4. SpaKitty Dinner

    November 14 @ 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm UTC+0
  5. The Festival of Trees

    November 15 @ 4:00 pm - 8:00 pm UTC+0
  6. FIU’s 32nd Festival of the Trees

    November 15 @ 6:30 pm - 9:30 pm UTC+0
  7. School Day at the 2018 Florida Tiny House MUSIC Festival

    November 16 @ 9:00 am - 12:00 pm UTC+0
  8. 10th Annual OrlandoJobs.com Job Fair and Career Expo

    November 16 @ 11:00 am - 3:00 pm UTC+0
  9. Florida Tiny House Music Festival (3rd Annual)

    November 16 @ 12:00 pm - November 18 @ 6:00 pm UTC+0
  10. Orlando Balloon Glow

    November 16 @ 5:00 pm - November 18 @ 10:00 pm UTC+0