If you haven't tried Carmel Cafe & Wine Bar in Winter Park, you're missing out. I had the opportunity to eat at the mod Med restaurant twice in the last month, and I was blown away by the food both times.
On my first visit, I was treated to a sample from the fall menu, which is both diverse and delicious, with rich and bold flavors that suit the season well. Standouts include the creamy cauliflower mash, the Basque crab cake, the perfectly seasoned seared tuna with red wine reduction, and the peppery filet medallions. The butternut squash soup was the best I've had, not too sweet and with a hint of cinnamon, and the vanilla ice cream with warm poached pear was a delightful end to the meal.
On my second visit (anonymous), my husband and I shared the arancini, the steak frites, and the chocolate lava cake. He also had the basil grilled salmon. All were perfectly prepared and seasoned. In fact, the steak frites was cooked exactly as I ordered, not too rare but still tender and flavorful.
I was very tempted to order some crab cakes to go, as they were incredibly tasty on my first visit, but we weren't going straight home and I wasn't comfortable leaving them in the car for several hours.
The service was friendly and prompt; it didn't stand out as exceptional on my second visit, but I had no complaints, either. I ordered using the iPad at my table, but did have a couple of questions about the wine and desert that were answered by a server. And using the iPad to order wasn't just helpful, it was actually fun. I enjoyed viewing color photographs of the menu options and reading the detailed descriptions before ordering.
I love the ability to mix and match small and large plates, and choosing from 3-, 6- or 9-oz wine pours definitely gives Carmel bonus points in my book. It's a nice change to enjoy some wine with dinner without worrying about the drive home.
I plan to stop in for happy hour next time I'm in Winter Park. If the apple martini I tried on my first visit is any indication of the quality of their cocktails (which are flavored with fresh herbs!), happy hour at Carmel sounds like heaven.
Photo Courtesy of Carmel Cafe & Wine Bar
I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving holiday!
There's a lot happening in Orlando this week.
Tonight, check out "Solos" by Joseph Reed Hayes at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center. Orlando CityBeat describes it as a "touching story about love, truth, God and jazz as religion." Tickets are $18 and the show starts at 7:30 p.m.
Tomorrow is Tasty Tuesdays in the Milk District from 6:30 to 10:00 p.m. This event gets better and better every week and is great for getting together with friends.
On the 2nd Thursday of every month (which is this Thursday, in case you don't have a calendar handy), Thornton Park puts on a fantastic art and wine walk around the neighborhood. $10 gets you a wine glass, wrist band and map of participating vendors. Visit Thornton Park's Facebook page for instructions on picking up your band and glass.
Casselberry's Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony will be this Friday, December 13 at Lake Concord Park. The event features over 15 food trucks, many local vendors, music and other entertainment and runs from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Children can visit and take photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus. Visit Casselberry's website for more information.
On Saturday, December 14, join your family and friends for a night bike ride through 10 miles of brightly lit and stunningly decorated neighborhoods. There will also be refreshments, games and music, and your ride donation will benefit New Hope for Kids. $10 in advance and $12 the night of the event. Children under 10 ride for free. The ride begins at South Seminole Middle School in Casselberry. Check in is at 4:00 p.m.
The 81st Orlando Christmas Parade will be Sunday, December 15 at 5:30 p.m., but the holiday celebration runs all day, from 2:00 to 7:00 p.m. at Lake Eola Park. Enjoy food, shopping and family-friendly live entertainment before and after the parade. There will also be a Dog Jog around the lake at 5:15.
Also on December 15 is the Locally Grown Words Book Fair. This event kicks off a new, independent bookshop at East End Market in Audubon Park. Visit from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m. to purchase books and chat with local authors. Proceeds go to support Page15.org, a children's literacy organization.
At various Rosen Inn locations, families can enjoy writing letters to Santa or an Elf Visit and Sing-Along Celebration on select dates. For more information about times and locations, visit the Rosen Hotels website.
And, if you haven't heard, Ripley's is offering 50% off to all Florida residents through December 20th. This discount is good at the Panama Beach, Key West, Orlando, and St. Augustine locations. All adults need to show photo ID to qualify.
Want to add an event? Comment or email and let me know.
Photo Courtesy of City of Casselberry
If you're tired of spending Thanksgiving cooking and cleaning in the kitchen, pack up the family and do dinner this year at one of Orlando's fabulous restaurants. Leaving the work to someone else means more quality time with family and friends.
I've compiled a list of some of the best options around for feasting this Thursday. If you know of a restaurant that should be added to the list next year, please let me know.
Also, if you're interested, Emeril has recently released a free holiday cookbook with 18 recipes from his kitchen. You can download a copy of that here. Feel free to share it with friends!
Enjoy your Thanksgiving, everyone.
Photo Courtesy of Emeril's Tchoup Chop
What a busy weekend!
Tomorrow night, November 22, is the lighting of the Happy Holidays sign on top of the Historic Ivanhoe Building in Ivanhoe Village. If you want to watch as this historic sign comes to life for the first time in two decades, stop by 1111 North Orange Avenue at 6:00 p.m. Mayor Buddy Dyer will be flipping the switch.
Tomorrow is also the first day to begin dropping off donations of household goods and building materials to support the new Habitat for Humanity of Greater Orlando Area ReStore. The new store will be located in South Orlando by the Florida Mall and should be open in January 2014.
Saturday morning, grab the kids and head to 123 East Livingston Street in downtown for the Downtown Orlando Touch-a-Truck. This event provides families with an opportunity to explore and learn about various types of trucks and construction vehicles. The hands-on experience will delight kids of all ages (and maybe mom and dad, too). The event runs from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and is $5 per person. Proceeds benefit Trinity Lutheran School.
From 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Saturday is the Winter Park Harvest Festival in Central Park. This year's event features a fabulous beer garden, over 50 food artisans, demonstrations and seminars, farm and garden vendors, and an exciting lineup of musicians. The festival, located at 150 N. New York Avenue, is a great place to do some holiday shopping.
Later on Saturday, Ivanhoe Village is getting into the holiday spirit with Jingle Eve, a neighborhood celebration, wine stroll and boat parade. Kids can visit with Santa at his workshop at 5:00 p.m., and the parade begins at 6:30 p.m. on Lake Ivanhoe.
Also, if you have some extra blankets lying around and you want to help someone in need, bring them with you and drop them off in Gaston Edwards Park on Orange Ave.
Photo © Patrick O'Connor
It has been an incredible (and busy) week so far in Orlando.
On Monday night, See Art Orlando unveiled eight new sculptures in downtown. If you haven't seen them yet, spend one day this weekend wandering around Lake Eola and the surrounding area. If you come on Sunday, you can pick up some goodies at the farmers market, too. The pieces are gorgeous and add a lot of visual interest to downtown.
And, in case you're hungry for even more art, last night was the unveiling of the Urban Art Museum in the Mills 50 District. The Urban Art Museum is a project that aims to improve neglected urban areas through the installation of public art. The project is one of the most interesting and promising to come to Orlando in a long time. The Urban Art Museum is a collaborative effort by Process Architecture, Marcos Cruz and Jai Gallery.
Last night was also the official announcement that Orlando City Soccer Club will be joining MLS in 2015! More on that later.
Do you have any ideas for projects to add more culture and beauty to our city?
Mayor Buddy Dyer will be kicking off this year's Festival of Trees by lighting the Grand Tree at the Orlando Museum of Art. Tickets to the lighting are $50 per person, and the pre-festival opening is Thursday, November 14, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
The annual Festival of Trees showcases stunning displays of professionally-decorated trees, gingerbread creations and wreaths. All decorations are available for purchase, and proceeds go to support the Orlando Museum of Art.
The 27th Annual Festival of Trees, "All That Glitters," is presented by the Council of 101 and runs from November 16 to 24, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Special Events Worth Noting:
- Light Up the Holidays: Thursday, November 14th; $50 per person; Pre-Festival Opening 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
- The Great Gala: Friday, November 15th; $125 per person; A Gatsby Evening 7:00 to 11:00 p.m.
- Senior's Day: Tuesday, November 19th; $9 per senior; Celebrating Seniors 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
- Reindeer Romp: Wednesday, November 20th; $12 per person; Santa, activities and more! 6:30 to 8:30 pm
- Shake, Glitter & Stroll: Friday, November 22nd; $40 per person; Happy Days, Good Times, Date Night! 7:00 to 11:00 p.m.
Tickets are available online or at the Orlando Museum of Art.
Photo Courtesy of Orlando Museum of Art
To celebrate National Baklava Day, Taverna Opa Orlando, Wondermade and The Hyppo are teaming up to host A Sweet Thanksgiving Carnival this coming Sunday, November 17. The event runs from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. and is open to the public.
The carnival will feature live entertainment, food and wine stations, a dessert bar, and a variety of carnival games. While the event is complimentary, cash and Square donations will be taken at the door to benefit the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.
Carnival participants include:
- Taverna Opa, a Mediterranean restaurant focusing on Greek cuisine and located on I-Drive.
- Wondermade, which offers handcrafted marshmallows sweetened with sugarcane and available in a variety of interesting and seasonal flavors.
- The Hyppo, a locally-owned gourmet popsicle shop in Thornton Park.
- Sassafras Sweet Shoppe, a Winter Park confectionery that offers vintage candy and novelty sweets.
Taverna Opa is located at 9101 International Drive, Suite 2240, in Pointe Orlando.
Photo Courtesy of Taverna Opa
November is a beautiful month in Orlando. If you're looking for something to do outdoors during the next few weeks, check out East Coast Paddle in New Smyrna Beach. They offer board rentals, stand up paddleboarding lessons, fishing and guided boat tours.
Also, Light Up UCF kicks off Friday, November 15. Visitors will enjoy outdoor movies, ice skating, a ferris wheel and ice slide, a Santa train, and a spectacular light show with snow! The light show, movies and parking are all free, but ice skating costs $12 per person. Additional charges apply for other events and rides. Hours vary based on day.
Art lovers can spend time outdoors enjoying art exhibits, children's activities and live entertainment at the Osceola Fall Art Festival (Nov. 16 & 17) and the DeLand Fall Festival of the Arts (Nov. 23 & 24). Both events are free to the public and run from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
What outdoor events are on your calendar for November?
Once again, Golden Corral will be serving Thanksgiving meals to the community. Now in its 21st year, "Helpings from the Heart" is expected to serve more than 25,000 meals of turkey, ham and other Thanksgiving favorites at the Salvation Army Gymnasium on West Colonial Drive. Pumpkin pie, cotton candy and other desserts will also be offered, and to-go meals will be available to those in need.
"Year-round we are witness to what joy a hearty meal brings to people," says Eric Holm, president of Metro Corral Partners. "On one of the biggest eating holidays of the year, we feel blessed that we can not only share in the experience, but most importantly ensure our Central Florida community is fed."
If you're interested in volunteering (more than 1,100 people helped out last year), or you are in need of a meal, stop in between 11:00 and 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 28, 2013. The event is free and open to the public.
The Salvation Army Gymnasium is located at 440 W. Colonial Drive. For more information, call 407-423-8581.
This Saturday, November 9, stop in to Italio in Winter Park to meet Lions players Dennis Chin and Jamie Watson. The players will be available from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m., and fans wearing Lions paraphernalia will be treated to a free entree! You'll also receive a complimentary photo for the players to sign.
Italio Winter Park is located at 276 South Orlando Avenue.
If you're interested in learning more about Orlando's next Major League sports team, check out these facts about the Orlando City Soccer Club.
Image Courtesy of Italio