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Showing posts with label shrimp and grits. Show all posts
Showing posts with label shrimp and grits. Show all posts

Reel Fish Coastal Kitchen + Bar Renovations Near Completion

1234 N. Orange Ave.
Winter Park, FL 32789

Restaurant industry veteran Fred Thimm (Hard Rock, The Palm), has begun renovations at a well known Winter Park address that will soon house his first independent venture, Reel Fish Coastal Kitchen + Bar.

Taking its inspiration from classic Florida fish camps and offering coastal cuisine in an inland setting, the restaurant will specialize in sustainably sourced seafood from the Sunshine State’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

Remodeling is currently underway in the building recently vacated by The Ravenous Pig at 1234 Orange Ave. Reel Fish Coastal Kitchen + Bar anticipates opening by early February 2017. Seating capacity will be 150.

“Reel Fish Coastal Kitchen + Bar will be a contemporary version of a classic fish camp, serving fresh Florida seafood prepared in a southern style and served in a casual, family friendly environment,” said Thimm. “With Winter Park being located almost directly between Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts we’re in the perfect place to receive daily shipments from the state’s top sustainable seafood purveyors.”

The kitchen at Reel Fish Coastal Kitchen + Bar will be led by chefs Michael Zajac and Michael Huffler. Zajac, an alumnus of Houston’s restaurants and former owner of High Cotton in Atlanta, will oversee developing the culinary team. Huffler will spearhead the restaurant’s daily blackboard specials and core recipes, which will feature creative takes on fresh-caught fish not typically found on many inland Florida seafood restaurant menus, including tile fish, trigger fish, sheephead, hogfish and other local species.

The Reel Fish menu will also include fish camp classics like fried seafood platters, Shrimp & Creamy Cheese Grits, whole fried market fish, such as yellow tail snapper, and Low Country Boils featuring shrimp, bay scallops and crab legs.

Central to the restaurant will be a raw bar serving oysters on the half shell, broiled and steamed, as well as ceviche and peel & eat fresh Florida shrimp. For the meat lover, Reel Fish’s offerings will include farm-to-table, GMA-free beef & brisket blend burgers from Creekstone Farms, as well as a rotating selection of premium beef cuts. Signature salads will include the Shrimp & Avocado Louie and a fresh tuna salad.

The bar at Reel Fish will offer “coastal cocktails”, local craft beers and a boutique list of sought after reasonably priced wines curated by Alex Plotkin, owner of Chops Restaurant in Philadelphia and former National Director of Wine & Spirits for The Palm. Reel Fish will also offer happy hour food and beverage specials at the bar daily.

Overseeing day-to-day operations at the restaurant will be Chrissy Benoit, who recently joined Reel Fish as General Manager. Benoit brings extensive hospitality industry experience with her, including more than a decade owning and operating popular South Florida establishments The Little House Restaurant, Adventurous Palate and Havana Hideout. 

In 2009, Benoit and Havana Hideout were featured on the acclaimed Food Network’s series Diners, Drive-in and Dives. In 2013, The Little House, which Benoit designed, received a prestigious “Outstanding Renovation” Award from the Florida Redevelopment Agency for rescuing a historic cottage in Boynton Beach and giving it new life as a “charming and lively restaurant.” 

Reel Fish Coastal Kitchen + Bar will open to the public on Thursday, Feb. 9 for dinner service only. Weekend brunch service will debut on Feb. 18-19 and lunch service will begin on Tuesday, March 7. Reel Fish Coastal Kitchen + Bar will be open every Tuesday through Sunday. 
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The Mojo Grill

4620 E Silver Springs Blvd.
Ocala, FL 34470
(352) 291-6656
View Website Here

During the last few days of Summer this year, I had the opportunity to go camping in Ocala. Although we ate at camp most days, we did manage to sneak of to Mojo Grill and catering Company.

The first thing you will notice when you walk into the Mojo Grill is the Southern style hospitality and atmosphere. The inside is a vast collection of artwork and decor that include bright colored paintings featuring blues legends and various instruments one would see from New Orleans to Mississippi.

The sounds of the Blues are floating in the air and the vibe is very Bourbon Street. Even the various flat screen TV’s inside this establishment are showing legendary musical performances from some the best Blues legends. If you go to the East Ocala location, like we did, you will notice an entire band’s set of instruments hanging upside down from the ceiling...It’s pretty impressive. They also boast a state of the art sound system that allows live bands to plug into the house system so they can be heard in concert quality sound inside and out on the patio.

Local artist Deb Grant hand painted most of the decor and every table in the restaurant, as well as painting in a tower area that hoists a 37 guitar chandelier at 40 feet in the air. The focal point of the restaurant is the 30-seat indoor/outdoor bar that boasts Ocala’s coldest draft beer system. They offer 20 draft selections with local craft breweries from Gainesville, Ocala, and St. Petersburg showcasing their beers.

Mojo Grill features a menu that includes burgers, empanadas, a Cuban pork dinner, Cajun chicken pasta, shrimp and grits, and a large selection of tasty appetizers. Entrees range from $7.99 to $14.99. There are enough entree selections to satisfy the pickiest of eaters, and they even have a gluten free section to choose from.


In addition to craft beers, Mojo also has a good cocktail selection as well. The names range from Voodoo Child to Hellhound and are loaded with a variety of alcohols.

Pop's Cajun Boiled Peanuts were fun to eat at a restaurant. I love boiled peanuts, but usually grab some from a roadside stand. These were just as good.

The Fried Pickles were crispy dill chips tossed in cajun batter and served with a cajun ranch dipping sauce. They were a big hit at our table, but a tad salty.

Shrimp and Grits are on menus everywhere these days, but the Southern Style Shrimp and Grits with Applewood bacon, cheddar cheese grits and Cajun alfredo sauce was a very satisfying dish.

Rondo's Famous Cuban Pork Dinner was a hearty portion of tender and juicy marinated pork in rondo's secret mojo sauce.

The Cajun Dip is Mojo Grill’s take on a French Dip with Cajun rubbed roast beef,swiss cheese and au jus for dipping. A really good sandwich with a little extra zing to it.

My only disappointment at Mojo Grill was the Churrasco Steak. This is an 8 oz hand cut skirt steak grilled and topped with grilled onions. The steak is served with house made chimichurri, black beans and rice and sweet plantains. The steak was a little tough and had way too much excess fat.

The Rasta Pasta is a penne pasta dish with sauteed bell peppers tossed in jerk alfredo sauce then topped with jerk chicken. The heat of the spices and the creaminess of the sauce made for a unique and delicious flavor profile.


Mojo Grill is open Sunday thru Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., with Friday and Saturday being open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. If you happen to find yourself out near any of their three locations stop by. It's worth it just for the atmosphere alone.


The Mojo Grill & Catering Co Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Marlow's Tavern

1008 S. Orlando Avenue (17-92)
Winter Park, FL 32789
(407) 960-3670
View Website Here



Marlow's Tavern is a slightly more upscale and gourmet take on a neighborhood grill and bar. It's a great place to meet up with family and friends, but it is also intimate and cozy enough for a date and dine.

Based in Atlanta, the restaurant chain has thirteen locations in Georgia and currently there are two in Central Florida, with plans for more. The first Marlow's tavern opened up at Pointe Orlando on International Drive in 2012 and the Winter Park location opened up in 2013. The Winter Park location took over a former Mc Donalds, and they are making good use of the old Mc Donalds indoor playground by turning into an indoor patio-bar.


The menu at Marlow's features a selection of American tavern fare with a combination of classic dishes that include everything from burgers to wraps to shrimp and grits. The inside design is focused on modern comfort utilizing a black and white motif to create a sleek fashionable look. That overall look and design is accented by black and white photographs and Chicago style brick walls at most locations.

A neighborhood feel is also accomplished with an open kitchen that invites diners to observe the chefs at work and communal tables surround the bar areas. Each Marlow's also features several flat screen TVs that  are discreetly incorporated, “in-the-round”, allowing guests to enjoy a variety of shows while they dine.

I recently met up with some family members here to have a family dinner and celebrate a few birthdays towards the end of December. Although the atmosphere was a little odd at first, the food was really good.


J.T.’s Kettle Chips are crispy potato chips topped with Gorgonzola cheese, bacon, Roma tomato and scallions, and are a great way to start your meal.




While I applaud the effort, the Truffled Parmesan Fries really lacked any serious flavor, they were OK, but just kind of plain.





I was however, impressed with the Prime Rib French Dip. This was moist, tender and flavorful down to the last bite.





Burgers are a strong point for Marlow's and the Tavern Burger is no exception. Thick, juicy and delicious. 





The Roast Turkey Club with organic turkey, avocado spread, baby arugula, Roma tomato, apple-wood smoked bacon and provolone on a Toasted Ciabatta bun was simple yet good.



I am a big fan of Shrimp & Grits, so I almost always try them out if they are offered at any restaurant. The white cheddar grit cake and spinach combined with succulent shrimp at Marlow's is top notch.

The Buffalo Chicken Wrap may sound ordinary, but with spicy chicken, shredded lettuce, tomato, jalapeno jack cheese, ranch dressing in a grilled tortilla, I can assure you its no ordinary wrap.



We didn't have room for dessert, partially because we really enjoyed the Stella on draught.





Overall Marlow’s is a great meeting place for all seasons. They have spacious and open areas that allow guests to enjoy cocktails and great foods at a reasonable price. Check them out sometime soon. Marlow's is open from 11:30 am to 12:00 am.


Marlow's Tavern on Urbanspoon
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First Watch: New Summer Menu Items


3402 Technological Ave.
Orlando, FL, 32817
(407) 823-8146
View Website Here

First Watch, the breakfast, brunch and lunch restaurant, has added three new seasonal menu items that will be available through Sunday, August 17.

In addition to the food offerings, long time fans of First Watch will be happy to know that the brand has finally added Iced Coffee to the menu that is available year round. 

Those new menu items include the BLT Benedict, Shrimp and Grits, and the Bruleed Banana Waffle. Chris Tomasso, chief marketing officer for First Watch says "they are very excited to offer a new spin on some breakfast and brunch classics that offer a little bit of everything, a little sweet, a little savory and we think our guests will thoroughly enjoy them.”


The BLT Benedict is served with two poached eggs on toasted ciabatta with bacon, tomato, hollandaise sauce, lemon-dressed arugula, avocado slices, fresh herbs, and includes a side of fresh seasonal fruit. 

I really liked the flavors and textures of this dish and would certainly order it again. The ciabatta added a nice crispy layer of support for all of the toppings.

The Shrimp & Grits features sautéed shrimp and Andouille sausage in a Cajun low-country reduction with house-roasted tomatoes, onions, peppers, corn and fresh herbs on Cheddar Parmesan cheesy grits served with ciabatta toast.

First Watch has done a pretty good job of creating an authentic "Low Country" shrimp and grits. The flavors were light and fresh with an earthy note, and the Andouille sausage added the right amount of spice.

The Bruleed Banana Waffle is a light and airy waffle that  is topped with caramelized bruleed bananas, brown sugar glazed bacon, a sweet cream sauce drizzle and bacon-infused syrup.

This was really good, but it was really sweet. I like sweets, but this was too much for me. I recommend you order this and split it with at least one other person.

I personally am a big fan of iced coffee, don't get me wrong, I like it hot too, but sometimes I just want iced coffee. That being said, I don't why it took so long to add iced coffee to the menu at a place that specializes in breakfast and brunch. So all my fellow iced coffee drinkers out there can now rejoice as First Watch has finally decided to make it a staple. My coffee was perfectly sweetened and ice cold, and I will certainly have some again on my next visit.

First Watch is a recipient of more than 200 “Best Of” accolades in markets across the country and was recently recognized with a 2014 “MenuMasters Award” by Nation’s Restaurant News for Best Healthful Innovation for its Pesto Chicken Quinoa Bowl. The “Daytime Café” features traditional favorites including pancakes, omelets, salads and sandwiches, as well as signature specialties such as the Chickichanga, Healthy Turkey Omelet, and Fresh Fruit Crepes.

First Watch serves its entire menu seven days a week from 7 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. The restaurant also offers guests complimentary newspapers and free Wi-Fi Internet access.

First Watch UCF on Urbanspoon
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David's Club at Omni Orlando Resort


1500 Masters Blvd
Champions Gate, FL
(407) 238-6565
View Website Here

With the help of Executive Chef Robert Ash, Omni Orlando Resort is setting a pretty high standard in the world of fine and sustainable dining.

Since coming aboard with Omni Orlando, Chef Ash has been successful in designing a menu that has no boundaries or nationalities. His commitment to excellence and his more than seventeen years in the culinary field are what drives Chef Ash not only to excellence, but to always challenge the complexity of tastes and the depth of the palate. His new mission is creating a monthly additional feature menu that includes the "Item Of The Month." The item of the month menu showcases locally sourced foods that highlight one locally sourced ingredient each month. 

The new menu features ingredients from local farmers, fisherman, ranchers, and foragers and is based on using that particular ingredient in its peak season in a variety of ways. For the month of June, Corn is the item of the month and Chef Ash and his team have created five specials to show how diverse corn can be. All the corn used to create the menu is from Long and Scott Farms in Mt. Dora. For July, the item of the month is shrimp from some of the best paces in Florida like Jacksonville, Key West and the Gulf Coast. 

On my recent visit to sample the "Item of the Month" we were treated to a wonderful dinner service at David's Club. Omni Orlando has a few places to grab some food, but the resorts two main restaurants are Trevi's and Davids Club. 

Trevi's is an Italian restaurant that features a brick oven and family style menu ordering options. Both restaurants are participating in the Item of the month program and feature the same ingredient used for that month.


Davids Club is an upscale sports bar and grill that serves hand cut steaks, short ribs, sandwiches, and a selection of  premium cigars and Cognacs.



In addition to those fine Cognacs, David's also has an impressive list of premium Scotch and specialty cocktails. If wine or beer is your fancy, they also have a small craft beer selection and a decent  wine list.


We really enjoyed the flavors and the refreshing qualities of cocktails like the Knickerbocker, Basil Peach Gimlet and the Blushing Berri.


To get our Item Of The Month Menu started, Chef Ash treated us to a serving of some pretty darn good Hushpuppies.

These are not your average Hushpuppies by a long shot as they are  made with smoked Gouda cheese and Nueske’s cherrywood bacon.

The house made malted tartar sauce and a few drops of fresh squeezed lemon juice made these some of the best hushpuppies I have had. They were very light to eat, but heavy on flavor


Our next appetizer was the Corn Crepes. It may sound strange to make a crepe like concoction out of corn, but it actually tasted wonderful.

The corn crepes were topped with a grilled corn and tomato salad, quseo fresco, corn nuts, and a lemon vinaigrette. The flavors worked wonderfully together and I enjoyed the added texture of the corn nuts.

The Shrimp 'n Grits became an instant favorite. The grits are made with cheese and topped with Cajun BBQ shrimp and a corn salsa. 

For some reason, as southern as Florida is, its hard to find good grits. The grits served in this dish were some of the most authentic and home style that I have had in any restaurant, and we found ourselves licking the bowl.


Our second entree was the Chicken and Waffles with sriracha maple syrup. 

The chicken is coated in a corn meal crust and the waffle is made out of a cheddar and jalapeno cornmeal mixture. 

Usually adding all of those corn ingredients together can make for dry tasting foods, but the chicken was very tender and juicy and the waffle was firm, but light. I really enjoyed the sriracha maple syrup as well and thought it added a little extra kick to the  meal overall.


Thanks to our great server Maria, we were able to try the house specialty Short Rib.

Although its not part of the item of the month menu, this was a spectacular short rib that melted in your mouth.


To finish our evening off on a sweet note we had the final of the five "Items Of The Month" which is simply called Corn Cake.

The name may be simple, but this desert had a complex variety of ingredients. The corn cake itself is made of sweet cornbread and the ice cream is made with bacon and sweet corn and then topped off with caramel corn and a bacon infused syrup.

Once again this dish took ordinary ingredients and transformed them into a wonderful and tasty treat. That's the genius of Chef Ash...taking simplicity and making it extraordinary.

We had a great time visiting Omni Orlando and really enjoyed our meal at David's Club. The Item of The Month menu was pretty impressive and we cant wait to see what Chef Ash is going to do with the July ingredient of fresh Florida shrimp.

You can be sure that both David's Club and Trevi’s are going to create some amazing and unique dishes using locally harvested ingredients that will challenge your palate to new tastes.

Whether you are an Orlando local, or are from out of town and looking for a fun place to stay, Omni Orlando Resort at Champions Gate should be on the top of your list. Omni Orlando is a Four Diamond resort that is located minutes away from the Orlando attractions, yet worlds away from all the distractions.

David's Club on Urbanspoon
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The Coop

610 W Morse Blvd. 
Winter Park, FL. 32789
(407) 843-2667


Let the great Fried Chicken debate begin...

A little over a month ago, I had the opportunity to attend a grand opening celebration for John Rivers latest culinary creation, The Coop.

For those of you not familiar with the name, the same owner and team behind the famed 4 Rivers Smokehouse brand is also behind The Coop.

Since its initial opening, there has been a great debate brewing among foodies and food bloggers alike about the "Fried Chicken" at The Coop. I wanted to make sure I got the full experience and taste the chicken independently, so I waited a little while before returning for my recent lunch visit.

The idea of The Coop is to serve up southern hospitality and classic comfort food made from scratch with a down home feel. That down home we are speaking of is South Carolina Low Country, where the family of John Rivers has its roots. Low Country cuisine is traditionally associated with parts of South Carolina and the Georgia coastline. Most of  what we call "Low Country" cuisine shares cooking styles with traditional Southern style cooking, but has strong similarities to Cajun cuisine.

A lot of the menu at The Coop is based on handed down family recipes that use fresh and seasonal ingredients that bring together the best of both worlds. There are plenty of Southern options available like Fried Chicken served in a variety of ways, Meatloaf and Chicken & Dumplings. Some of the signature "Low Country" items include a Fried Fish Basket, Low Country Shrimp and Grits and Po'Boys with a selection of fillings.

The inside is very eclectic and features purposefully mismatched wooden tables and chairs.

It is rumored that John Rivers even went so far as to hunt down those tables and chairs from Craigslist.

It gives The Coop a very unique feel, like sitting inside someones home for a family get together in Charleston South Carolina, if you've ever been. 



The Cinnamon Roll Bread Pudding was luscious and creamy, but firm at the same time.

I sampled this during the grand opening, and it was a real treat.










Another dish I sampled at the grand opening was the Low Country Shrimp and Grits.

Since it is hard to find Low Country cooking in Orlando, I really enjoy when I find somewhere that does it right, and The Coop does.

The shrimp and grits have a mild earthy flavor with just the right amount of seasoning served with creamy grits.

John Rivers told me he uses Tasso Ham to kick it up a few notches.

Some other items I sampled included Biscuits and Gravy, Deviled Eggs, Pecan Pie and Pimento Cheese Spread, all of which were very good.

So...Lets get back to that great Fried Chicken debate.

On my recent visit I ordered the Two Piece Plenty Plate. That included a wing, a breast, and two sides that came in at just over $10.00 with a drink.

Sadly, as of right now, I have to tell you that the Fried Chicken at The Coop is just kind of average. I have to go with a tired and old cliche and say..."It depends on what your definition of Is...Is".

Is the fried chicken at The Coop good? Yes
Is the fried chicken at The Coop mind altering, tantalizingly delicious and irresistible? No 

My overall experience was that it really lacked any flavor at all, except for the large chunks of pepper. The batter was nice and crispy but my breast was a little dry. I found myself having to add table salt to the chicken just to taste it. I personally love pepper and spicy foods, but for someone with a more sensitive palate, the excess pepper would make this fried chicken a no go.

Expectations can be a great thing, but they can also be a detriment when we build them up too high. Most people, myself included, thought John Rivers was going to take fried chicken to another level, much like he did with his famous 18 hour smoked beef brisket at 4 Rivers. Unfortunately that's not the case at The Coop, and a lot of folks feel let down.

There is plenty of great food available here, and almost everything else I've had has been wonderful. I really enjoyed my side of three cheese macaroni and the coleslaw, but at over $10.00 for a two piece meal...I really needed to be wowed by more than just my side items.

Something else I noticed that I am not happy about, is the fact that the Chicken and Waffles come with fried chicken tenders instead of bone in chicken pieces. Most of the press clippings I saw prior to opening were all in a buzz about the possibility of The Coop featuring authentic Southern Chicken and Waffles with bone in chicken.

I can get chicken tenders and waffles at I-hop, and I was really looking forward to something more along the lines of  Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles or even Hattie B's in Nashville, but again we must use caution on our expectations.

Overall, I like The Coop. Its decor is very inviting and charming and gave me a real feel of eating at a South Carolina family members home. The food for the most part is good, and service is always friendly and helpful. Perhaps sometime in the not too distant future, The Coop will revisit its Fried Chicken recipe and give us something to go crazy over.
  
The Coop on Urbanspoon
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