First Look: New Fall Harvest Menu at Seasons 52

First Look: New Fall Harvest Menu at Seasons 52

Seasons 52 is launching a fixed-price menu just in time for fall!  The restaurant’s Harvest menu allows guests to choose a soup or salad, entrée and Mini Indulgence dessert for just $29.95.  The menu features the freshest ingredients that autumn season has to offer – like Bosc pears, mushrooms, butternut squash and Caulilini – and is available now through November 21.

We were invited to Seasons 52 – Altamonte Springs to taste their new Harvest menu and we were very impressed with our entire visit.  The food was so good and fresh and the best manager I’ve ever encountered, Claudia Ortiz (who started there as a server, then bartender, then got promoted to manager) and her staff took care of us really well.  You can’t go wrong at Seasons 52 – Altamonte Springs.  Highly recommended!

Select a cup of soup or salad:

– Butternut Squash Soup

– Porcini Mushroom Bisque. I highly recommend!


– Spinach and Caramelized Bosc Pear Salad
– Organic Field Greens

Select one:

– Cedar Plank-Roasted Salmon crushed potatoes, Caulilini, grilled lemon, dill-mustard sauce.  I highly recommend!

– Wood-Grilled Filet Mignon
roasted mushrooms, Caulilini, Yukon mash, red wine sauce.  I highly recommend!


– New! Mediterranean-Style Australian Lamb Shank* – sautéed green beans, Yukon mash
– New! Venison Chop* – venison ragout, Caulilini and sweet potato mash
– New! Short Rib Lasagna* – mozzarella, grass-fed beef Bolognese

Select one:

– Pumpkin Pie or Poached Pear Cheesecake

* Entrees exclusive to the Harvest menu.

Guests can complement their meal with recommended wine pairings available for an additional cost by the glass or try a seasonal cocktail, such as the Pearfect Storm.

For more information, please visit:

Seasons 52 – Altamonte Springs
463 E Altamonte Dr. Altamonte Springs, FL 32701
(407) 767-1252

First Look: New Fall Harvest Menu at Seasons 52

Spice So Nice at Tony Roma’s on I-Drive

We were invited to Tony Roma’s on International Drive to try their limited-time only “Spice So Nice” menu, available now through Dec. 23!  We were very impressed with our visit from start to finish.  The food was packed with bold flavors and cooked to perfection and the service was top notch.  Be sure visit Tony Roma’s on I-Drive as soon as possible to enjoy these dishes crafted to bring the flavor before they are gone!

Jalapeño Buffalo Shrimp – Enjoy a double dose of heat with these crispy shrimp tossed in Buffalo sauce and packed with bits of fresh Jalapeños. Cool it down with classic ranch dressing for dipping.

Chimichurri Salmon – The bright flavors of their chimichurri sauce pair perfectly with grilled salmon, served with saffron & kale rice and seared garlic green beans.

Black Pepper Ribs & Filet Medallions with Horseradish Butter – Their World-Famous Baby Back Ribs get an added boost of flavor with a new black pepper BBQ sauce. Enjoy a half rack alongside two tender filet medallions topped with horseradish butter for a hint of heat. Served with hearty mashed potatoes and seared garlic green beans.

Spiced Cider Romatini® – The flavors of cinnamon apple pie with a boozy kick make this cocktail a great way to start or finish a meal. Crafted with Ole Smoky Apple Pie Moonshine®, Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey®, apple cider and lemon juice, it’s served chilled, but sure to warm you up.

Cinnamon Apple Cranberry Cobbler – Apples and cranberries spiced so nice with cinnamon and baked with a crunchy cobbler topping. Served warm with two scoops of vanilla bean ice cream.

After dinner, the media team got to make our own spices with Brandon, the owner of Tony Roma’s on I-Drive!  Thank you Brandon for your hospitality!

Tony Roma’s – I-Drive
8560 International Dr, Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 248-0094

For more information about Spice So Nice, please visit

Spice So Nice at Tony Roma’s on I-Drive

Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine – Lake Nona

We were invited to Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine to check out their newest location in Lake Nona.  This is their third location in the Central Florida area along with locations in Winter Park and Dr. Phillips.  The restaurant itself is simply breathtaking, you will find one-of-a kind pieces imported from Turkey throughout the whole restaurant which makes for a beautiful ambiance.  The food was full of flavor, hearty, and served in generous portions, perfect for sharing.

MIXED APPETIZER (Karisik Meze) – A combination of Humus, Babaganoush, Sautéed Eggplant, Tabbuli, Ezme, Cacik, Haydari and Zetinyagli Yaprak Dolma

LAVAS (Hollow Bread) – Our signature, baked- to-order bread creation. Highly recommended for all soups & appetizers

FRIED CALAMARI (Kalamar Tava) – Crispy fried calamari served with a light pine nut infused sauce

LAMB SHANKS – Seasoned to perfection with our authentic Turkish spices and seasonings, braised slowly over 5 hours with a medley of fresh carrots, onions & bell peppers until the meat is tender enough to fall off the bone. Served with rice pilaf.

GRILLED SEA BASS (Levrek Izgara) – Fresh Mediterranean sea bass (whole or fillet), chargrilled and served with mixed green salad & choice of rice pilaf or french fries

CHICKEN ADANA KEBAP – Grilled skewers of hand-ground chicken seasoned with fresh garlic, red bell peppers, light hot peppers & parsley

DARK CHOCOLATE MOUSSE – A rich mousse made with Peterbrooke dark chocolate and a hint of Turkish coffee

CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT BAKLAVA – Peterbrooke chocolate, freshly ground hazelnuts and flaky filo dough topped with citrus infused syrup

PISTACHIO BAKLAVA – House-made baklava with layers of crispy, thin pastry dough filled with pistachios and topped with citrus infused syrup

Be sure to check out Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine next time you are in the Lake Nona area!

Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine – Lake Nona
6900 Tavistock Lakes Blvd. Orlando, FL 32827

Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine – Lake Nona

Poke Hana

Poke Hana bowl

Poke popularity proceeds apace.

Poke, pronounced poh-kay but not spelled with an accent mark, because Hawaiian, is the meal in a bowl option that usually features fresh raw fish as its prominent protein.

Poke Hana is one of the more recent entries among the the local poke providers. It occupies a rather spartan but colorful spot in a storefront on East Colonial Drive in the Mills 50 district. One supposes the decor is meant to approximate a beachside shack somewhere in Hawaii. There are long narrow tables (too narrow, really, for two people to sit across from one another) with yellow and white metal chairs that no one would ever look at and think, “Boy, those sure look comfortable.” Touches of neon, ceiling fans with a rattan look, and a projector splashing a video of surfers on one of the walls completes the Maui-like mien.

Tony Roma

Poke Hana counter

Like most poke places, Hana is an assemblage concept. That means you must place your order at the counter and choose all of the components that will go into your bowl: The base (white rice, brown rice or greens); the protein (fresh ahi, fresh salmon, hamachi, tako (octopus), fried tofu); and the sauce (Maui, shoyu, spicy, kimchee). I guess you’re supposed to know the differences among the sauces because no explanation is written anywhere.

I went white, half ahi/half hamachi, and kimchee. The bowls also include thinly sliced pickled cucumbers, seaweed salad and big green edamame beans, all served with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

It was a prettily assembled bowl and an ample amount of food. I had intended to eat just a few bites then take the rest home for later, but I enjoyed the freshness of the fish and the just spicy enough kimchee sauce that I pretty much finished the whole thing off right there.

Poke Hana musubi

And I even had room to nibble on a Spam Musubi, a compact presentation of a slice of Spam, the meat that has somehow managed to live on in a world that hates its email namesake, compressed sushi rice, within a wrapper of crisp nori. A pleasant nibble.

There were a few young people staffing the restaurant on the evening I visited but apparently only one had been designated to be the friendly one to greet customers. But even that young man seemed lost in how to communicate with strangers. The others largely ignored the fact that people had come into their establishment to give them money.

I’m fine with the continuance of the poke fad. I hope it becomes more than that. It reminds me a little of the period when non-Japanese Asian — Thai, Chinese, Korean — restaurants started offering sushi because sushi was suddenly very popular. At first I was annoyed, thinking that sushi should be left to well-trained masters. But then I realized that introducing fresh fish to a menu — any menu — was a good thing.

Poke restaurants are a good thing, too.

Poke Hana is at 1225 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-601-0283.

Poke Hana chairs

St. Marks Stone Crab Festival, October 27, 2018–Great Things To Eat in Wakulla County

The annual St. Marks Stone Crab Festival is planned for October 27, 2018.  St. Marks is the southernmost town in Wakulla County, just a few miles south of Florida’s capital, Tallahassee.  St. Marks, and neighboring Panacea, have long been vibrant commercial fishing hubs, specializing in both crabs and fin fish.

Here are a few words about the festival from VisitWakulla:

Enjoy fresh crab claws prepared by local culinary experts

There is plenty to see and do at the festival, but it is a stone crab festival after all. You’ll have the opportunity to taste many different stone crab preparations using fresh crab claws prepared by talented local chefs who know their crab. The flavor of the meat in the crab claws is mild and slightly sweet, and it pairs perfectly with a variety of different flavor profiles. These crabs have been caught fresh from the Gulf of Mexico, so there’s no better way to experience them than this!

Participate in a full day of family fall fun outdoors

Now you know all about the crabs, but there’s so much more going on at the St. Marks Stone Crab Festival that makes it a must-see event. There will be live music and entertainment taking place all day long, and many different local vendors will be selling arts and crafts to commemorate the arrival of stone crab season. There are a variety of activities, games, and educational opportunities for kids, and because the festival is so close to Halloween there will likely be plenty of people donning their costumes as well.”

Image result for stone crab festival photos st marks

Florida’s stone crab season begins on October 15, and this year’s crop will likely be a blockbuster.  That might mean that normally very expensive stone crab claws are a bit cheaper, but to many Floridians, they’re worth any price.  Stone crabs are harvested all along Florida’s coastline.  There’s a significant amount of effort to get the claws to market and to your table.  First, only one claw can be taken from crabs, mostly caught in baited crab traps.  Then, claws are sorted by size and steamed within just a few hours of arriving at port.  Claws are always sold cooked, and can be eaten immediately or heated by a quick trip into boiling water.  Stone crab claws also freeze well for a few months.  While large, jumbo and colossal size claws look great, I recommend medium claws as the best value.

There’s no finer meal in Natural North Florida than a plate of steamed stone crab claws — served simply, with drawn butter.

With 12,000 visitors, last year was a banner year for this signature event. The weather was perfect, as it usually is towards the end of October. There were plenty of fresh-from-the-Gulf Stone Crabs, all kinds of local delicacies, and vendors selling everything from custom jewelry to handcrafted furniture. Come and enjoy the live music and fun for the whole family! Sorry, no pets allowed on festival grounds.



The post St. Marks Stone Crab Festival, October 27, 2018–Great Things To Eat in Wakulla County appeared first on Visit Natural North Florida.

8th Annual Food & Wine Weekends at Waldorf Astoria Orlando and Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek

Bull & Bear’s Petite Filet of Beef and Stuffed Lobster Tail – chasseur sauce, potato pave, fresh arugula salad

We were invited to Waldorf Astoria Orlando for a media preview of their 8th Annual Food & Wine Weekends happening every weekend starting September 14, 2018 through November 11, 2018 at Waldorf Astoria Orlando and Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek.

The sister hotels are hosting Food & Wine Weekends, a complement to Epcot Food & Wine Festival, to celebrate fine wine & culinary arts designed for those who truly savor the artistry of fine culinary preparations.

Food & Wine Weekends features innovative dishes from their renowned restaurants, unique food and wine pairings, intimate chef talks, and interactive demonstrations.

The Taste of Zeta Asia

Mount Fuji Signature Roll – Crab salad, cucumber, tuna, yellowtail salmon, wasabi mayo, tobiko, micro cilantro

Kanji Signature Roll – Spicy salmon, cucumber, avocado, tobiko, sriracha, micro cilantro

Short Rib Bibimbap – Short rib, fried egg, blanched spinach, namul, Japanese rice, gochujang sauce

The Taste of La Luce

Lasagna Napolinata – Mozzarella di Bufala, tomato, basil

Risotto Duo Di Mare – Shrimp, scallops, saffron, English peas, oven roasted tomato, reggiano gremolata

The Taste of Bull & Bear

Petite Filet of Beef and Stuffed Lobster Tail – chasseur sauce, potato pave, fresh arugula salad

Raspberry mint mocktail

Bar du Chocolat at Peacock Alley, Saturdays 6:30pm-10:30pm – A decadent selection of à la carte chocolate treats hand-crafted by Waldorf Astoria Orlando’s world-class pastry team.  Highlights include chocolate truffles, exotic chocolate cakes and bowls of beautiful bon-bons.

La Pâtisserie: Master Pastry Class at Sir Harry’s, Fridays 4:30-5:30pm – Learn the secrets of the Waldorf Astoria Orlando world-class pastry team as they host a complimentary gourmet baking demonstration. From delicate pastries to the perfect cookie, you’ll learn tips on how to make, bake and decorate the perfect dessert.

Pop Culture at MYTH Bar, Saturdays 8pm-10pm

Home-made, fresh fruit popsicles, creamy organic ice pops and adult poptails!  Choose from a variety of gourmet toppings, including hand-dipped chocolate, caramelized almonds, sweet coconut and chocolate vermicelli.

For more information, please visit and

(Source: Waldorf Astoria Orlando)

Waldorf Astoria Orlando
14200 Bonnet Creek Resort Ln, Orlando, FL 32821
(407) 597-5500

Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek
14100 Bonnet Creek Resort Ln, Orlando, FL 32821
(407) 597-3600

8th Annual Food & Wine Weekends at Waldorf Astoria Orlando and Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek

deep blu seafood grille

deep blu mussels

One of the best things about Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month — at least it was when it was first instituted — is that it allows you to experience a restaurant that perhaps might be beyond your financial comfort zone. At some of the featured restaurants, you couldn’t even afford an appetizer from the regular menu let alone a full three-course meal.

Magical Dining Month made those restaurants — Ruth’s Chris, Eddie V’s and Morton’s among them — approachable. The smart restaurants knew that it was an opportunity to woo new customers, even if it was just for special occasion dining, by showcasing the best of their regular menus on the specially priced three-course Magical menu

Then some restaurants started changing what they would offer. In many cases today, the MagDinMo menu doesn’t feature any items from the regular menu. What’s the point of that? Others make subtle changes, such as offering smaller portions of changing the ingredients used in a dish.

When I put together my “How to Do Magical Dining Month” video last year, which emphasizes comparing the MagDinMo menu to the restaurant’s regular menu, found on most of their websites, I dinged deep blu seafood grille for changing the makeup of its Bouillabaisse (the regular menu had lobster, the Magical menu did not). I had previously dinged it for its inability to use capital letters and misspellings.

So I made a point of checking deep blu’s Magical menu this year, and boy howdy, is it a bargain. At least on paper — the three entrees on the MagDinMo menu range from $35 to $42. And since the three course special menu is $35, there’s no need to pull out a calculator.

Tony Roma

So I headed down to the Wyndham Grand Orlando Bonnet Creek to give it a try. All of the food my guest and I had was first rate, high quality, and expertly prepared. What’s more, nothing about the experience was “dumbed down,” nor were we slighted by any of the staff because we were ordering from the Magical Dining Menu (which we did have to request specifically). In fact, the manager and the chef, Wade McLamb, made a point of coming by the table to see how our meals were.

deep blu rolls

It started with bread service, which included three distinct rolls served with olive oil infused with red pepper flakes and ground black pepper.

deep blu mussels 2

For my first course I chose the Drunken Mussels, a big bowl of Prince Edward Island mollusks and hefty hunks of pork belly steamed in American pale ale. There was a slice of toasted baguette, buttered and topped with parmesan cheese, for dipping into the liquor, but I would have liked to have had a spoon so slurp some of it up directly.

deep blu chowder

My companion had a spoon, served with the New England Clam Chowder, a just-thick-enough stew with hunks of chopped clams and bits of bacon, all with a delicate spicy note. Good chowder.

deep blu salmon

For my entree, I had the Scottish Salmon, a thick fillet grilled enough to put hash marks on the top but not so much as to dry out the moist flesh. It was served atop a plotz of quinoa and accompanied by three black-eyed pea fritters, which were actually falafels made with peas other than chick, in a cucumber mint creme fraiche.

deep blu short rib

My friend chose the Beef Short Rib, a new addition to the menu. Braised in Guinness (not cooked sous vide, as we suspected), the meat was fall-apart tender and quite delicious. It was accompanied by a savory bread pudding muffin filled with bits of bacon, and a stack of sauteed Brussels sprouts, which could have benefitted from a good sprinkle of salt.

deep blu pudding

We had one each of the two desserts offered on the menu. The Southern Bread Pudding (is there a Northern version? Western?) was just right, a creamy custard with meaty slices of banana in a jar topped with whipped cream, caramel and crushed meringue. We both preferred it to the Flourless Chocolate Torte, which seemed to be missing something. I mean besides flour.

Service from our lead waiter was excellent, though the food runners could make a little effort not to auction off food to the guests. (It’s really simple trick; I’d be happy to share it with management.)

deep blu int

The dining room of deep blu wants to be elegant but it can’t quite escape that hotel-restaurant feel.

My first experience with deep blu seafood grille, in 2011 when it first opened, resulted in a shoulder shrug. I didn’t see much reason to recommend it.

I do now. I was thoroughly impressed with the food and the general operation, and I’m now pleased to recommend it — especially during the month of September!

deep blu seafood grille is at the Wyndham Grand Orlando Bonnet Creek, 14651 Chelonia Parkway, Orlando. It is open for dinner daily. The phone number is 407-390-2420.

It’s Getting Cool–Expect FOOD and FUN at 2018/2019 Festivals in Natural North Florida

Fall and winter in Natural North Florida can be warm, but generally not as hot as in the summer months.  And cool days and nights mean that it’s “food festival time”, with several great events on the region’s calendars.

Some events revolve around drink, like  the Big Bend Brewfest.  Others center on food, especially the farm-to-table offerings at Swallowtail Farms and seafood at the Panacea Oyster Festival and the Cedar Key Seafood Festival.



Panacea Oyster Festival, October 14, 2018

There’s no doubt that some of the world’s best oysters come from Florida’s Big Bend, where freshwater rivers empty just the right amount of water to dilute the Gulf’s salt to the perfect solution for oysters to thrive.  And in recent years, there’s been an increasing interest farm-raised oysters.  Aquaculture is the future of providing plenty of healthy and tasty seafood, and the farm-raised species grown in Wakulla County are among the finest–and tastiest!

Panacea is located just south of Tallahassee on US98.  From Tallahassee, head south on US319.  From the west (Apalachicola/Panama City/Pensacola) head east on US98.  From the East (Perry and the Florida peninsula), head west on US98.




Cedar Key Seafood Festival, October 20 & 21, 2018

Long before Cedar Key became a lumbering and pencil-making town, it was a fishing town. Native Americans, likely Timicua, pulled all sorts of shellfish and fin-fish from the local bays and island shores.  Now, the main “crop” is hard shell clams, making Cedar Key one of the largest producers in the U.S.  In addition to clams, local fishers still harvest mullet, stone and blue crabs, and oysters.

The Cedar Key Seafood Festival is the community’s celebration of the past and the future.  Food abounds, reminding visitors of the importance of this archipelago of Gulf islands’ past.  And there’s art and crafts, homage to the current status of Cedar Key as an arts-oriented community and tourist mecca. The weekend also offers an opportunity to tour the Seahorse Key Marine Laboratory.

Cedar Key is located at the most-western extreme of Levy County, at the terminus of SR24.  SR24 (Archer Road in Gainesville) crosses US19/98 at Otter Creek.  From there, it’s about 24 miles to Cedar Key.




Big Bend Brewfest, March 2, 2019

Perry, Florida (Florida’s Forest Capitol) has, in recent years, moved some of it’s festivals to Rosehead Park, just a few blocks from the center of town.  Now there’s beer—GOOD beer–available at many local festivals and functions.  2018 was the kickoff year for the Big Bend Brewfest, and it was a big success.  Tickets sold out quickly and the crowd enjoyed the cool late winter evening under the trees at the park. Tickets for the 2019 event are available NOW, ONLINE.

Craft beer is the focus, with many beer styles represented, including pale ales, IPAs, porters, stouts, wheats, ambers, and lagers.




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Swallowtail Farm’s Farm To Table Events, October and November 2018


Sat 4 PMSwallowtail Farm · Alachua, Florida
Sat 4 PMSwallowtail Farm · Alachua, Florida


Swallowtail Farm · Alachua, Florida

“Swallowtail Farm is located north of Alachua, along a fertile ridge of highland soil that crests the spine of Florida. We have crafted the farm as a model of sustainability and fine land stewardship, with a focus on appropriate scale, conservation of resources, and nature-produced fertility. No synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals will ever touch our fields or your food.”




The post It’s Getting Cool–Expect FOOD and FUN at 2018/2019 Festivals in Natural North Florida appeared first on Visit Natural North Florida.

From The Water: Dishes of Fishes 🐟 Around Jacksonville & The Beaches of Northeast Florida

Northeast Florida has a strong Southern food game, but we also shine when it comes to dishes from the water, sometimes from unexpected places. While places such as Safe Harbor, The Fish Company, Timoti’s and others that specialize in seafood are local favorites, there are a number of from-the-water dishes that residents love, even in places that don’t have seafood front and center.

From The Water: Dishes of Fishes Around Jacksonville, Blue Bamboo, Ceviche, Chef Dennis Chan
BluTe Bamboo’s Ceviche

At Blue Bamboo on the Southside, there’s three dishes we recommend, depending on what you’re craving. For a lunch item we think their fish sandwich is a winner. It’s served in their bento box with their shoestring fries, which are spiced with a little bit of salt and pepper. It’s also a fantastic item for kids or less adventurous eaters. The tuna ceviche has been on the menu for several years, and it’s a go-to item for a lot of folks, at all times of the day. The recipe for it is in Chef Dennis Chan’s cookbook Hip Asian Comfort Food. It’s a favorite of mine because the citrus doesn’t overpower the fish, which is true of too many ceviches out there. The added ginger and sesame oil take it over the top as one of the tastiest ceviches you’ll find on the first coast. The Velvet Yu Kew combines steamed rice, bok choy, carrots, and straw mushrooms served with a ginger-garlic sauce with a flaky white fish and rice, for a classy-from-the-water stir fry.

Another place with an Asian flair and a recommended item is Timwah’s crispy fried shrimp balls. This dim sum delight might not be for everyone, but it’s a staple on the West Coast. Here in Jacksonville, we do things larger, so these aren’t bite sized. It’s ground shrimp rolled into a ball, bound loosely by strips of wonton wrappers and deep fried.

Cowford Chophouse, Fish of the Day, From The Water: Dishes of Fishes Around Jacksonville
Cowford Chophouse’s Fish of the Day

Downtown’s Cowford Chophouse has a strong fish game, so if you’re going for something high-hat downtown, try the fish of the day. We also love their duck fat cornbread, which is topped with Maine lobster, and lump crab meat, with crème fraîche, dill, tarragon, paprika oil. The seafood and creme balances out the cornbread and the paprika flavor.

Candy Apple Cafe & Cocktail's Shrimp N Grits, Ariel Crawford bar manager, From The Water: Dishes of Fishes Around Jacksonville
Candy Apple Cafe & Cocktail’s bar manager Ariel Crawford with their Shrimp N Grits

Everyone has their go-to menu item, even when they’re at a restaurant they’ve never been to before. Mine happens to be shrimp and grits, an item that has found itself on many a local menu. The best thing about the dish, is that every restaurant has their particular take on it–so it’s familiar, with elements in common, but it’s an excellent way to get to know the flavor profile of a chef. Downtown we can recommend two places to try it– the Candy Apple Cafe and Nola MOCA. At the Candy Apple, there’s a bit of Cajun flair to the dish, with the shrimp sharing the spotlight with sausage, and the grits are served Southern-style topped with a rich roux. The grits at the Nola are served as smoked cheddar grit cakes, and the sauce is white wine and mushroom based. The shrimp keep company with applewood smoked bacon and sun-dried tomato crostini.

BLK SHP, Kale & Smoked Trout Salad, From The Water: Dishes of Fishes Around Jacksonville, Black Sheep Restaurant, 5 Points
Kale & Smoked Trout Salad from Black Sheep

Asking around on social media about fish dishes in unexpected places, Black Sheep at 5 Points’ Smoked Trout salad garnered one of the strongest responses from local residents. The Carolina Rainbow trout has been on the menu for about two years, featured in two places on their menu– in the starter Smoked Trout Rillettes and in the Kale and Smoked Trout Salad.

Although the fish isn’t local, the kale in the salad is–from the outstanding Bacon’s Select Produce. If you haven’t had anything from the Bacon family, you are missing out. The lettuce they sell at Riverside Arts Market that will benefit any salad you make at home. Everything, including the kale, is grown hydroponically.

The Kale and Smoked Trout Salad is popular at brunch, lunch and dinner. Says Chef Waylon Rivers, “It’s a lightly smoked fish, not overly done, which I think is appealing. It’s brined for a few hours ahead of time so there’s some nice background flavors aside from the smoked fish flavor. It’s a well-balanced dish.”

From The Water: Dishes of Fishes Around Jacksonville, Bread & Board's Banh Mi Shrimp Sandwich
Bread & Board’s Banh Mi Shrimp Sandwich

A newer place that’s been heating up because of their stellar sandwich game, Bread & Board has their Banh Mi Shrimp sandwich. Chef Dwayne Beliakoff says they’re inspired by Florida seafood and love using in their recipes “Key West pink shrimp are the perfect match for our spicy homemade chili sauce in our version of the classic Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwich. Sweet, spicy, and exotic goodness heaped into fresh bread,” says Beliakoff

We’re sure you’ve got your own favorites from unexpected places, let us know on social media with the hashtag #UnexpectedFlavorJax.

First Look: An Omakase Dinner at Ocean Hai At Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach

We were recently invited to visit Clearwater Beach by the lovely folks at Wyndham Rewards to check out their Ocean Hai restaurant at Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach, recently awarded Four Diamonds by AAA.

The restaurant has a strong emphasis on seafood and pan-Asian cuisine featuring sumptuous sushi and sashimi platters to succulently pan-seared sea bass, all prepared under the culinary eye of Executive Chef Sean Ragan. Dishes are prepared with fresh, locally-sourced ingredients, including seafood and farm-raised meats and poultry.

Chef Sean Ragan has over 25 years of professional experience in the hospitality and restaurant industries, previously working at Caretta on the Gulf at the Sandpearl Resort.

Throughout his career, he had been handpicked to train with highly regarded chefs such as Julia Child, Paul Prudhomme and Martin Yan, and cooked for other top restaurants including Oystercatchers under Chef Hans Hickel and Innisbrook Golf Resort and Spa as Executive Sous Chef. Most recently, Chef Ragan was named the 2015 Best Chef of Clearwater Beach – and the fine dishes at Ocean Hai live up to his curriculum vitae.

Born in New York, Chef Ragan was exposed to a melting pot of flavors and cultures, developing a passion for cooking and global cuisine. He received his degree with honors in Culinary Arts and Hotel Restaurant Management in 1994 from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. He is also ACF Certified, a recipient of the honored Le Cordon Bleu Medallion and belongs to the historic and distinguished Chaine des Rotisseurs and Societe Mondiale du Vin.

On our visit, we experienced the Omakase – “Chef’s Choice” – multi course tasting menu designed to allow guests to experience a sample of all of Ocean Hai’s cuisine. The cost is usually $75 per person with an optional $25 add on for wine pairings to go along with the dishes.

The first dish of the evening: Lobster Fried Rice, a decidedly elevated take on the traditional fried rice, with delicate pieces of lobster, saffron rice, crispy shallots, and topped with a sunny side up egg. I could not get enough of this dish!

Our second dish of the evening was the Tetsubin Miso Soup – the humble miso soup is brought to new heights here, with smoky charred tofu and smoked mussel, and finished tableside with a pour over from a hot kettle with dashi miso broth miso.

The next course, a delightful compressed watermelon salad that was truly a work of art – cubed, pressed watermelon, heirloom tomato, marinated feta cheese, slices of cucumbers, dollops of basil pesto, and some soy gastrique drizzle. It sings of summer.

To highlight their sushi, we tried their nigiri sushi sampler, with ultra-fresh slices of tuna, salmon, and yellowtail fish that had me reminiscing some time ago in Tokyo, Japan.

For the entree, my dining partner had the pan-seared then broiled Asian Sea Bass, a succulent flaky sea bass with a nice crisp from the pan sear, on top of black Forbidden rice with some sugar snap peas, shiitake mushrooms, and microgreens.

My entree was the Mongolian Lamb Chops, perfectly seared and delicious chops of lamb, accented by a dash of Chinese five spice, and served alongside roasted eggplant, baby bok choy, and crystalized ginger.

The evening ended on a high note – dessert that was playful and delightful – ube / purple yam “twinkie” and deconstructed strawberry cheesecake. Art on a plate. From start to finish, Ocean Hai soared to new heights in Asian cuisine.

Lobster Fried Rice | Saffron Rice | Peas & Carrot | Sunny Side Egg | Crisp shallot | Sweet Soy 20

Tetsubin Miso Soup | Dashi Broth | Smoked Mussel | Charred Tofu | Wakame 9

Compressed Watermelon | Heirloom Tomato | Marinated Feta | Cucumber | Basil Pesto | Soy Gastrique 11

Nigiri Sampler – Tuna, Salmon, Yellowtail Nigiri SushiAsian Sea Bass | Forbidden Rice | Sugar Snap | Shiitake Mushroom | Micro Green 38

Mongolian Lamb Chops | Roasted Eggplant | Baby Bok Choy | Edamame Yogurt | Crystalized ginger 42

Deconstructed Strawberry Shortcake DessertPurple Ube Twinkies

If you do come to Ocean Hai, make sure to plan to have dinner while the sun sets over the shimmering waters of the Gulf.

From Wyndham Rewards

  • Wyndham Rewards recognizes ordinary, hard working men and women for what they do every day. From the annual vacationer to the frequent traveler, no matter how often our members stay with us, they are all united under the same loyalty program.
  • Go free – With just 15,000 points, you’ve earned a free night at any Wyndham Rewards hotel. 15,000 points = a free night. It’s that simple.
  • Go fast – Get a room night at a Wyndham Rewards hotel for just 3,000 points, plus some cash.
  • Go get ‘em – For every qualified stay you’ll get 10 points for every dollar or 1,000 points, whichever is more.
  • Wyndham Rewards: InstagramTwitterFacebookOfficial Website 
  • Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach: InstagramTwitterFacebookOfficial Website 
  • Official Hashtags: #WyndhamGrand, #WyndhamGrandClearwaterBeach, #LiveGrand, #GrandLife

Stay and dinner at Ocean Hai provided by Wyndham Rewards and Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach. All other views are my own.

First Look: An Omakase Dinner at Ocean Hai At Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach

Magical Dining Preview: Big Fin Seafood Kitchen on Restaurant Row

You must check out Big Fin Seafood Kitchen this year during Magical Dining Month if you want a delicious meal for a great value.  Big Fin Seafood Kitchen, voted “Best Seafood Restaurant in Orlando“,  offers global, fresh seafood, steaks and pasta, on Sand Lake Road.  This is their 9th year participating in Magical Dining Month.

What is Magical Dining Month?

  • 3 courses – Appetizer, Entrèe, and Dessert
  • Price: $35 per person plus tax & gratuity
  • Over 100 + participating restaurants
  • Beginning August 24 through September 30
  • Through Visit Orlando, one dollar from each meal will benefit Best Buddies and Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida.
    Click here to view menu and make reservations

Choice of Appetizer

½ Dozen Freshly Shucked Raw Oysters – can be served raw (1st pic) or steamed (2nd pic)

Caesar Salad – Romaine, Parmesan cheese, garlic croutons

Cup of the Soup of the Day – Manhattan Clam Chowder

Choice of Entrèe

Shrimp Orleans – blackened shrimp, spinach, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, crawfish Parmesan grits with a Cajun cream sauce

Broiled Main Lobster Tail – served with garlic mashed potatoes and French style green beans

Filet Mignon – served with garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus

Big Fin Trio – deep fried popcorn shrimp, bay scallops and catfish served with French fries and coleslaw

Upgrade: Add a 3 oz broiled lobster tail to any entree +$12

Choice of Dessert

“Apple Pie” Bread Pudding – braised cinnamon apples, salted caramel sauce, crumb topping, vanilla ice cream

Ooey Gooey – a gooey-layered pie cake topped with whipped cream, chocolate sauce and raspberry (ask your server for today’s flavor)

Key Lime Pie – a Florida favorite topped with whipped cream & a lime slice

Thank you Visit Orlando for hosting us and thank you Big Fin Seafood Kitchen for the amazing dinner and service!

Big Fin Seafood Kitchen
8046 Via Dellagio Way Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 615-8888

Magical Dining Preview: Big Fin Seafood Kitchen on Restaurant Row

Magical Dining Preview: The Ravenous Pig

Pork Chop – sweet potato puree, collard greens, onion jam

Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month is fast approaching!  We were invited to James Beard Award nominee, The Ravenous Pig to preview their 3-course (appetizer, entrée and dessert) Magical Dining Month menu.  The menu is available to the public Friday, August 24 through Sunday, September 30 for $35 plus tax & gratuity. This year, through Visit Orlando, one dollar from each meal will benefit Best Buddies and Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida.

Choice of Appetizers

Steak Tartare – capers, egg, shallot, toast

Shrimp & Grits – Cape Canaveral shrimp, Anson Mills grits, green tomato chutney, chorizo oil

Gatherer Salad – baby greens, avocado, pickled beets, radish, goat cheese, pistachio granola, herb vinaigrette

Choice of Entrèe

Mushroom Risotto – summer mushrooms, parmesan broth, chili oil with black truffle supplement

Black Grouper – chana masala, cucumber raita

Pork Porterhouse upgrade

Choice of Dessert

Coffee Panna Cotta – persimmon sorbet, chocolate cardamom shortbread, compressed persimmons

Spiced Citrus Cake – elderflower chantilly, bay leaf crumble, poached pears

Thank you Sweet Rockaway PR for the invite and thank you Chef James Petrakis and The Ravenous Pig for the amazing service and dinner!  Be sure to check out The Ravenous Pig this year for Magical Dining Month!

For more information, please visit:

The Ravenous Pig
565 W Fairbanks Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789
(407) 628-2333

Magical Dining Preview: The Ravenous Pig

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

    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 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

    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 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

    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 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