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Tastes Of Orlando

1430 North Mills Ave. 
Orlando FL 32803

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With close to 400 locations in Brazil and more than 30 years in business, Giraffas has brought their multicultural cuisine to Orlando. The Giraffas brand has two locations in Orlando with the first location opening on International Drive and the second one, that I visited, in Mills Park on North Mills Avenue. The cuisine is one that combines a touch of American favorites with a dash of some popular Brazilian items.

Giraffas goal is to combine value, service, and quality in a fast casual atmosphere. The menu is pretty simple and not overly complicated. Once you order your food at the counter you are given a number and can seat yourself. A staff member will then bring your food out to you. The menu consists of burgers and an offering of grilled meats. The burger selections are a cheeseburger for $5.90, a double cheeseburger for $7.90 and a grilled chicken breast sandwich for $5.90. For no additional charge guests can accompany any burger with a choice of Hampton Creek Just Mayo’s Mayo, Garlic or Sriracha. For another $1.00 per topping,  you can "Boost your Burger" with bacon, ham, fried egg or extra cheese.

For an additional treat you can order the Brutus Burger for $7.90 This is Giraffas legendary Picanha burger made famous by its delicious combination
of toppings - a fried egg, ham, bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato & mayo.

The burgers don't come with any sides, so you have to pay an extra $2.50 for your choice of traditional fries, seasoned fries with rosemary garlic & parsley or a small mixed greens salad with red onion and cherry tomatoes tossed in balsamic dressing.

For the grilled portion of the menu guests can choose from Picanha for $13.90
Contra filet (New York strip), baby back ribs or shrimp for $ 12.90 or a chicken breast filet for $9.90 and a salmon filet at $13.90. All grilled items come with a choice of three sides included in the price. Side selections include white or brown rice, black beans simmered in sauteed garlic & bacon, traditional or seasoned fries, mashed potatoes, small mixed greens salad,  grilled veggies or Quinoa. All grill selections also include a sauce to accompany your meat. Sauces available are Brazilian vinaigrette, Chimichurri, Bahia butter, garlic butter and Brazilian BBQ.

Tastes Of Orlando
Both of my dining companions ordered Cheeseburgers with seasoned fries and Just Mayo. The fries were delicious and cooked wonderfully and the burger was cooked to a nice medium temperature.

Tastes Of Orlando
I went with the Contra Filet, black beans, rice and a side of salpicao (Brazilian chicken salad) with a side of Chimichurri. My steak was cooked well and had a great flavor, but had a tad too much fat on it. The sides were good.
Tastes Of Orlando
No visit to Giraffas is complete without an order of Pao de Queijo which is the authentic Brazilian warm cheese bread. These are two for $1.00, and are very addictive.
Tastes Of Orlando

For desert we ordered the Chocolate Petit Gateu that is served with ice cream and drizzled with your choice of Ghirardelli caramel, chocolate or raspberry sauces. We did one with caramel and one with raspberry. Both were delicious.

Here is my dilemma...I really liked Giraffas and enjoyed all of the food, but for some reason, it was not a very memorable dining experience. When I think of Picanha, I think of Texas de Brazil or Fogo de Chao. I appreciate the offerings on the grilled menu, but perhaps I'm too Americanized to not think of all you can eat Brazilian meat buffets when ever I think about Brazilian food. 

The food is good here, and I think its a worthwhile place for you to visit, I just cant say that its a place that would cross my mind when Im out and about and thinking of my dining options.

And no...They do not serve Giraffe Meat.

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Jet's Pizza

Tastes Of Orlando12231 E. Colonial Dr. 
Orlando, FL 32826
(407) 413-5800

Orlando has always had its fair share of pizza places. We have fine dining pizza, fast food pizza, Chicago style pizza, New York pizza, Mexican pizza, etc. That list can go on and on forever, but until recently, Orlando did not have an authentic "Detroit Style" pizza. So please say hello to Jet's Pizza. 

In case you aren't familiar with "Detroit Style", let me give you the rundown. Detroit style pizza is a type of pizza developed in Detroit, Michigan. It is a square pizza similar to a Sicilian style pizza that has a thick and crispy crust and can be topped with just about everything. The square shaped pizza is the result of being baked in a square pan, which originally was not a pizza pan. With the pizza originating in the motor city of Detroit, often times industrial parts trays, which were originally made to hold small parts in factories were used to make the pizza. Nowadays, I'm sure they have specially made customized pans for baking, because after all...I am not sure how sanitary those old parts trays were.

The crust of a Detroit-style pizza is noteworthy because in addition to occasionally being twice baked, it is usually baked in a well oiled pan to a chewy medium well done consistency that gives the bottom and edges of the crust a nice crunchy texture. When combined with melted cheese, sauce, and toppings of your choice, this kind of pizza makes your mouth happy.

Since opening their first pizzeria, Jet’s has been selling pizza, submarine sandwiches and salads that have been pleasing the palates of people everywhere. But the single menu item that Jet's Pizza has become famous for, above anything else, is their signature deep-dish square pizza. It is this style of pizza, and the way it is exclusively prepared, that differentiates Jet's Pizza from any other pizzeria. Jet's is known for being the originator of the 8 corner pizza and its square Detroit Style pizza. 

Just like with the Chicago deep dish pizza, there are many claims to who started what first, but I will leave that debate for another time. The original location of Jet's Pizza was founded in 1978 by Eugene Jetts, in Sterling Heights, Michigan. He and his brother John converted a former convenience store into a pizza store when Eugene was seeking a house. Its first franchise opened in 1990, and currently there are over 300 franchised and store owned locations across the U.S.

I recently had the opportunity to sample Jet's at the East Colonial location closer to UCF in the all new Town Park shopping center. There are currently three Central Florida locations for Jet's and two of them are on East Colonial drive. The first one to open was the Town Park location that is franchised by Nathanael Palmer. He is in charge of the east side of town towards UCF, and is not affiliated with the other Colonial Drive location.

Tastes Of OrlandoFor our starter we had the Jet's Bread with Bacon. Fresh baked bread topped with mozzarella cheese, butter, garlic, Romano cheese and bacon. Sauce for dipping is included, but it's so good by itself you don't really need any.
Tastes Of Orlando

Of course we had to order the Deep Dish "Detroit Style" Pizza. We got half cheese and half pepperoni. The crust on this pizza was magnificently buttery, crunchy and chewy all at once. Very delicious. 
Tastes Of Orlando
The Italian Deli Boat was amazing. This was the perfect marriage of a calzone and a classic Italian hot deli sub. It is served with ham, lettuce, provolone cheese, salami and tomatoes and comes with an Italian dressing sauce for dipping.

I was really impressed with Jet's Pizza. In my opinion, it was better than any other takeout or delivery brand that I have had, and I've had em all. That's what makes them good, its restaurant quality food with house made bread and sauces all cooked to perfection and loaded with flavor.

Stop by and see them, or give them a call sometime will thank me for it.

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Taste Of The Holidays at Reunion Resort

Tastes Of Orlando7593 Gathering Drive
Kissimmee, FL 34747
View Website Here

The Reunion resort is always a spectacular place to visit, especially for the holidays. I mean who wouldn't be interested in spending Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, or what ever holiday you and your family celebrate playing golf on one of the three signature golf courses designed by golf’s greatest legends? If golf is not your thing,  the resort also boasts 10 swimming pools and a water park as well, so you can spend the day splashing around the water park, or play tennis on one of the six lighted tennis courts.

With Reunions central location between its sister Grand Golf Resorts of Florida properties, and only a short 30 minutes from the Orlando International Airport and six miles from Walt Disney World, Reunion Resort is an ideal place to spend the holidays. With an exclusive 2,300-acre community that has the space, amenities and accommodations to bring together families, golfing buddies, social events and meetings, Reunion is already a great destination, but what can make it better you ask?

Food...and lots of it.

For Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Eve and Day, all of the restaurants on the resorts property are serving up some pretty awesome food, and the best part is...No slaving away in the kitchen, and more time to spend with family.

Lets start with Thanksgiving:

The Thanksgiving Grande Feast is held in the Grande Ballroom and is $45.95 for adults and $19.95 for children ages 4 -12.

The Thanksgiving Grande feast includes a selection of salads with local field greens, seasonal fruits and berries, cured meats, breads and condiments, potato salad, and a quinoa & kale salad. The carving station will feature buttermilk brined turkey, and herb crusted prime rib with herbed celery and onion stuffing. On display in the chilled seafood section guests will find house smoked salmon, spicy New Orleans shrimp and a crab and tortellini salad. Additionally there will be an offering of lemon thyme roasted pork loin, butternut squash bisque, herb roasted vegetables, mashed potatoes, and maple rosemary sweet potatoes. 

The little ones are not forgotten as they will have honey fried chicken tenders, mashed potatoes, spaghetti and meatballs, pizza, and macaroni and cheese. Desserts will include the following: pumpkin pie, apple pie, pecan pie, spiced carrot cake,mini creme caramel, chocolate fudge peanut butter cake and a pear upside down cake. 

The other restaurants on the resorts property will also be offering dining options as well like at Eleven Restaurant. At Eleven, you will have the choice of two entrees in oven Roasted Turkey Breast for $21.00 with candied sweet potato, haricot verts, onion celery and sage dressing and cranberry sauce, or the Pan Seared Salmon for $28.00. The salmon comes with a wild mushroom ragout, grilled asparagus tips, cranberry chutney and a port wine sauce. For dessert the Spiced Pumpkin Caramel Creme will be offered for $9.00

The Clubhouse will be offering a dinner only deal for $34.95 for adults and $19.95 for children, that features a choice of soups or a salad and a choice of one of four different entrees as well a choice of dessert.

At Forte Grill guests can go for a more traditional dining option and enjoy a three course meal for $49.95 that includes your choice of braised kale and Linguica sausage or arugula and fennel salad for a first course, slow roasted maple glazed tom turkey, grilled fillet of beef or a pan roasted halibut for a second course. The dessert featured will be the white chocolate cranberry bread pudding.   

The Christmas Grande Feast is held in the Grande Ballroom and is $45.95 for adults and $19.95 for children ages 4 - 12

The Christmas Grande Feast includes a selection of salads with spinach & Mandarin orange salad, Caesar salad, pate's and cured meats and a truffle fingerling salad. The carving station will feature herb roasted turkey and a horseradish and herb crusted strip sirloin. In the chilled seafood display area, guests will be treated to citrus dill Atlantic salmon, poached gulf shrimp, and marinated green lip New Zealand  mussels. other offerings include smoked tomato and shallot bisque, braised short ribs, chive mashed potatoes, creamed spinach & artichoke hearts and sauteed shrimp & fennel with a tomato pernod sauce.

Deserts will feature pecan pie, yule logs, snicker doodles, Christmas cookies, turtle cheesecakes, mini cream puffs and peppermint meringue.

As with the Thanksgiving dinner festivities, the resorts other restaurants...The Clubhouse, Forte and Eleven will also be featuring separate  Christmas eve and Christmas day dinner specials as well as New Years eve and day dinner specials individually. Of particular note is the New Years Eve special at Forte that has roast lamb loin as a choice for the second course.  

Of course the wonderful people at Reunion were kind enough to invite me out to sample just  about everything, so enjoy all of the pics....and yes it was all very delicious. 

Tastes Of Orlando
The first thing I sampled was the Herb Lamb Chop with rosemary mint jelly and fresh gnocchi with basil cream sauce. Very tender lamb chops and a delicious gnocchi made this hard to stop eating. 
Tastes Of Orlando
Next up was the Seared Duck Breast over arugula salad with sweet potato, caramelized pecans and raspberry vinaigrette. Moist tender medallions of duck cooked to perfection.
Tastes Of Orlando
For Christmas, The Clubhouse will feature a Winter Salad with mixed greens, poached pears, candied pecans, herb crusted goat cheese toasted walnuts and a white balsamic vinaigrette.
Tastes Of Orlando

One of my favorite dishes was the Pan Seared Grouper over brown rice risotto served with ginger cilantro sauce and citrus salsa. Very delicately cooked fish with a touch of heat and sweet.
Tastes Of Orlando
The Smoked Tomato Shallot Bisque will be featured on the Christmas Grande Feast buffet. This had a very nice flavor profile and was delicious.
Tastes Of Orlando

One of the more unique offerings was the Grilled Linguica Sausage served on white bean cakes topped with onion rings. This was a rich dish, but it comes with a sauce to even it out. Unique and flavorful.
Tastes Of Orlando
Of course no holiday feast is complete without turkey, so Reunion has a Sliced Buttermilk Brined Roasted Turkey that is off the charts good. It is served with stuffing.
Tastes Of Orlando

Guest who dine at The Clubhouse will be treated to a superb Pork Loin with wild mushroom confit.
Tastes Of Orlando

The Braised Short Ribs with coffee demi-glace will be featured on the Christmas Grande Feast buffet. These short ribs were tender and had nice depth of flavor and taste.
Tastes Of Orlando

The dessert selections started with Dark Chocolate Cream Pies. These are pretty simple in concept, but provided a wallop of chocolate flavor.  
Tastes Of Orlando

To finish out the evening we were treated to Spiced Pumpkin Creme Caramel that will be featured at Eleven on Thanksgiving. This was almost like a flan in texture, but much more delicious.

So there you have it...lots of great food to choose from at a great resort for the family. If you are considering dining at any one of the resorts restaurants or at one of the Grande Feasts, it is recommended that you make reservations and plan ahead.

Grande Feast:   (407) 396-3184
Forte:                (407) 396-5285
Clubhouse:        (407) 662-1320
Eleven:              (407) 622-1170

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Tastes Of Orlando6203 W Sand Lake Rd.
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 377-0022

The origins of the Chicago-style deep-dish pizza go back to 1943, and most believe that the original Pizzeria Uno in Chicago and its owner Ike Sewell had a hand in inventing the monstrous creation. However, a 1956 article from the Chicago Daily News says that Uno's original pizza chef Rudy Malnati developed the original recipe. By the mid 1970s, Pizzeria Uno was so successful, that it provided the inspiration for two now famous Chicago chains, Nancy's Pizza,founded by Rocco Palese, and Giordano's Pizzeria, operated by brothers Efren and Joseph Boglio, to open their own restaurants.

In an effort to keep with traditions but stand out as something different than what Uno was offering, they began experimenting with deep dish pizza and created the "Stuffed Pizza". Palese based his creation on his mother's recipe for scarciedda, an Italian Easter pie from his hometown of Potenza. Giordanos creation began in a small northern Italian town near Torino where mama Giordano was famous for her most beloved meal known as “Italian Easter Pie”.

As you can see, both establishments have a similar background and story, and both were often making headlines and news stories for the huge pies they served, but this led to a never ending debate. To this day, you can easily start an argument with just about anybody from Chicago by asking..."Who was first..Nancy's or Giordano's" If you want to see more info about the great pie debate, Go Here and take a look at another review I did for Chicago's Stuffed Pizza , a newcomer to Orlando and to the whole Pizza vs. Pie debate. 

Giordano's has three Central Florida locations mostly all close to the attractions and resort areas. For my visit I went to the one on Sand Lake Road. The other two locations are on W. Irlo Bronson highway in Kissimmee  and S. Apopka Vineland road in Orlando.

In addition to all of the famous deep dish pizza pies, Giordano's serves up a nice selection of appetizers and salads. Some of the featured items include: Tomato Bruschetta, Chicken Wings, Garlic Parmesan Fries and Fired Calamari.

If you are not in the mood for Pizza, They also serve up some pretty good sandwich choices. The sandwich menu includes the Chicken Parmesan, Italian Market Deli, Mamma's Meatball Sub and the popular Italian Beef Sandwich. For a different take on the classic Italian Beef sandwich, you can order the Northside Italian Beef and have all of the ingredients cooked inside Giordano's legendary pizza dough.

Tastes Of OrlandoWe started with an order of the Ripe Tomato Bruschetta with diced tomatoes, olive oil, fresh mozzarella and basil on crispy garlic toast with a balsamic glaze. This was one of the better Tomato Bruschetta's I've had.
Tastes Of Orlando

For our pie selection we chose The Special with sausage, mushrooms, green peppers and onions.
Tastes Of Orlando

Compared to other Pizza Pies I have had, I enjoyed Giordano's a little bit more simply because it was more edible. What I mean by that is that the pie was not too thick and heavy, but just the right size.

Of course there are a few dessert selections available at Giordano's as well like Tiramisu, Mini Cannoli, Chocolate Layer Cake and even a S'mores Pie. It all sounded very tempting, but after consuming so much bread and cheese, there was no room left. Perhaps next time.

I really enjoyed Giordano's and plan on going there again sometime soon. I was impressed on my recent visit with all of the nice people from Chicago eating there. They all told me that Giordano's is legit....and that's a good thing. Great pies, great foods, and great for family get togethers.

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Tastes Of Orlando
629 E Central Blvd. 
Orlando, FL 32801
(407) 849-1800

Soco is the all new Southern Contemporary restaurant from the Thornton Park Restaurant Group. The restaurant is helmed by award-winning Executive Chef/Partner Greg Richie, formerly of Emeril’s Tchoup Chop and Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion in Orlando. 

Tastes Of OrlandoThat space at 629 East Central Boulevard was formerly known as HUE, and occupies 4,500-square-feet. This signature corner is in the heart of the Thornton Park District in Downtown Orlando. 

A comfortable and welcoming bar adjacent to the dining room offers full dinner service and an impressive beverage program. An extensive selection of “By The Bottle” beers catches the eye alongside a list of handcrafted cocktails, also designed by Chef Richie, including Honey Rye Sour, White Julep and Grown-Up Cherry Cola. 

Also available is the Bar Plates menu, which features items, such as Crispy Macaroni Croquettes with heirloom tomato sauce, House-Blend Angus Beef Burger with aged white cheddar, red onion-bacon marmalade, house-made smoked ketchup and pickles on a brioche bun served with crispy onion rings and Meatloaf-Stuffed Bell Pepper Poppers with pimento mornay. 

Soco’s menu combines Richie’s classic culinary training with his experiences at renowned Southern restaurants such as Charleston’s Magnolias and The Abbey in Atlanta. A progressive culinary approach is showcased with new, exciting and contemporary takes on Southern-inspired dishes. "Small Plates” begin with reinterpreted presentations such as Soco-Style Chicken and Dumplings that feature carved chicken breast, lobster dumpling, local mushrooms, edamame and soy butter. Other unique Soco twists include the Cornmeal Crisped Oysters that include pickled green tomato relish, and herb cream served atop 
chicharrones. The restaurant also features a  “From The Garden” section, which offers a range of salad courses with interesting  ingredients like compressed pickled peaches and arugula and baby romaine lettuce with soft fried egg, among others.

For some of the Main and Feature dishes, Richie has played on the nostalgia of classic southern cuisine by creating a Lake Meadow Naturals Korean-Style Fried Chicken with pickled radishes, and a sweet and spicy dipping sauce. Other classic southern dishes that are taken up a notch include the Grilled Meatloaf on lobster mashed potatoes that feature a three-meat blend with crispy onion rings and a smoked Vidalia and Andouille sausage gravy. They even have a creative southern dish for all the vegetarians out there with a Chicken Fried Cauliflower Steak, that features asparagus, artichoke, garlic mashed potatoes and vine ripe tomato gravy. 

During a preview event I was able to do a round robin sampling of a few appetizers and a selection of desserts. For the main dishes, we each ordered a dish we wanted to try and then we took one or two bites and traded plates with the person next to us.

Tastes Of OrlandoStarting with the "Small Plates", I sampled the Slow Roasted Barbecue Glazed Pork Belly Biscuits with Jalapeno Jelly. The Biscuits were very good, and as a Southerner, that says a lot. The flavors of the pork belly and Jalapeno jelly made these tasty little treats.

Tastes Of Orlando
The Cornmeal Crisped Oysters were a personal favorite. Lightly breaded and fried oysters served atop chicharrones and topped with green tomato relish and herb cream.
Tastes Of Orlando

Soco Style Chicken and Dumplings were very different, and very good. The dumplings come with chicken breast, lobster and mushrooms in an edamame soy butter sauce. Not your grandmas dumplings.
Tastes Of Orlando
Another unique Soco dish was the Hand Made Canaveral Shrimp and Grits Ravioli. Served with Andouille sausage, tomatoes and a classic Veloute sauce, this will make you rethink your definition of Shrimp & Grits.
Tastes Of Orlando

Out of sheer curiosity, for my entree selection I ordered the Chicken Fried New York Strip Steak. It sounds wild, but its actually a play on the classic schnitzel, but with a nice cut of beef. It was surprisingly tender and delicious.
Tastes Of Orlando

The Grilled Meatloaf on Lobster mashed Potatoes was really good. The meatloaf is made of 3 different meats and is served with a smoked Vidalia and Andouille sausage gravy. 
Tastes Of Orlando
One of the "Feature" items at Soco is the Lake Meadow Naturals Korean Style Fried Chicken. The chicken is seasoned over night and coated in a thick and crispy batter that is topped with a sweet and spicy soy sauce.
Tastes Of Orlando
All my vegetarian friends should be pleased with the Chicken Fried Cauliflower Steak. Cauliflower is pressed together and formed into a patty and gets breaded and deep fried. This actually tasted pretty good, and I'm not a fan of non meat dishes.

The taste of the South continued on in the dessert courses as well. Some of  the home-style dessert offerings include Bourbon Banana Pudding, House-Made Moon Pie with RC Cola vanilla float, and Warm Apple and Oatmeal Spice Cake.

Tastes Of Orlando
First up, the Bourbon Banana Pudding. This was a spectacular dessert. When you make a Waffle out of Vanilla Wafers, that is dessert genius, then add on caramelized banana and toasted!
Tastes Of Orlando
The House Made Moon Pie with RC Cola Float was another cool Soco take on a classic Southern treat. Very good and very fun to eat.
Tastes Of Orlando

Another Unique dessert was the Potato Chip Crusted Chocolate Cake. Very simple in concept, salty and sweet and the cake was moist and delicious.
Tastes Of Orlando

The Warm Apple and Oatmeal Spice Cake was a nice treat as well. It is served in a pink peppercorn whiskey syrup and topped with shredded coconut.
Tastes Of Orlando

For something more traditional there is the Warm Berry Crisp served with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. This is an old southern classic dessert dish that will make you feel right at home. 

Soco is local, and independently owned. They are committed to playing an integral role in cultivating Downtown Orlando as a top dining destination. I can say that I really enjoyed the whole concept, from food to atmosphere, and they are well on their way to help make Downtown Orlando the place to go. 

Through the use of local ingredients and reimagined recipes, Soco’s Executive Chef/Partner Greg Richie conveys his Southern roots with a contemporary flair. This is not your grandmas southern food, but it is Southern at its core, and that is what makes the experience at Soco so unique. 

The restaurant is open daily from 5:00 pm until 10:00 pm. As of November 2nd, Soco is also offering brunch on the weekends. 
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