Sunday, June 27, 2010

Athenian Garden Restaurant

A new Greek restaurant has opened in Lake Mary and shows a lot of promise. I  found out about Athenian Garden Restaurant several weeks ago when walking by--the space had previously been occupied by Silvestro's which closed suddenly. We saw a new restaurant, walked in, and were immediately greeted by the owner who glady provided us with a copy of the menu. Imagine my surprise the other night when we stopped by for dinner and he remembered us from that brief encounter.

We entered and were promptly greeted and seated by our waitress. I never did catch her name, but she was an excellent server, answering all our questions and making sure all our needs were met promptly. Give this place an A+ for the great service. Our drink order was taken promptly and arrived in short order. We put in an order for an appetizer, and then spent a bit of time with the menu before ordering.

In due time our appetizer arrived--Saganaki. Saganaki is a Greek cheese that is fried, but the presentation is part of the story. It's brought to the table still sizzling, then a brandy is poured over it an lit. Nice! Finally, the flames are doused with fresh lemon juice. Quite the presentation. But on top of the presentation is the taste. Tommy likened it to the bits of cheese in macaroni and cheese that are caramelize--and usually fought over. This is a very rich dish, but we did manage to clean it up. Yumm, it was very good. It was Tommy's first time having saganaki and he liked it--a lot!

I ordered a side salad, and that arrived in due time as well. It was nice and fresh, topped with a bit of onion, some Greek cheese (yummy, but quite strong), a slice of cucumber, a bit of tomato, a small pepperocini, a kalamata olive, and dusted with some oregano. The dressing was an oregano oil and vinegar. It was a good salad, nice and refreshing and an ample portion to boot.

Again in due time (meaning promptly but not too soon) our main courses arrived. I had the Aegean Chicken. Talk about spot-on flavor. This was a large baked chicken breast that was stuffed with spinach, feta cheese, fresh tomatoes, scallions, and mushrooms. It was baked in a garlic wine sauce, then topped with a blend of cheese that were melted. Overall, the taste was excellent. However, there was one down side--the chicken itself was unbelievably tough. Oh, it was a huge portion, but i felt like I was eating an old rooster. The chicken was stringy and hard to cut and hard to chew. However, this was offset by the absolutely delicious flavors that accompanied it. I thougth that perhpas with a such a large ingredient list it would be somewhat a potpourris of indiscernable flavors, but it was not. I loved the dish (minus the tough chicken). It was a huge portion and I had lots to take home. The dish was served with a side of rice pilaf (ordinary, but good) and some excellent fasolakis (green beans that were sauteed with tomatoes, butter, and lots of other good things). Usually I am not a big fan of overcooked green beans, but these were truly excellent and I enjoyed them a lot. Aside from the tough chicken, this was a good meal. Next time I'll ask about the tenderness of the chicken before I order another chicken dish here.

My friend Tommy had the Athenian Combo, a choice of three entreess and two sides. He chose the Pastitio, Mousaka, and Dolomadkia. He was least crazy about the Dolomadkia--grape leaves stuffed with rice and beef. The Pastitsio was pretty good--layers of Greek macaroni and meat sauce topped with a bechamel. The Mousaka was good, too--layers of baked potatoes, eggplant, and meat sauce topped with bechamel. His one complaint was the nutmeg which seasoned both the Mousaka and the Pastitsio--it was a bit much, he thought. Still the food was pretty good. When we had leftovers the next day, he commented that the nutmeg seemed a little bit less prounounced. His meal was served with the fasolakia (green beans) and with roasted potatoes which he said were absolutely wonderful--nice and tender and creamy, maybe the best potatoes he ever had, in fact!

As I mentioned, the portions were large and we had two full meals worth of leftovers--and we did enjoy them a lot the next day. We had a very good meal with excellent service. A few missteps here and there (tough chicken and maybe a bit too much nutmeg). But we both agreed that in general we liked our meal and would go back for more another time, maybe with different choices!
Athenian Garden Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Fourth Friday Art Walk

On the Fourth Friday of every month, the art galleries in downtown Sanford sponsor the Art Walk--all the galleries are open 5-8 that Friday night and sponsor demos, have artists on hand, and server appetizer and beverages. The Fourth Friday Art Walk on June 25th was another successful event, though I did hear that for some reason, the Seminole Cultural Arts Council did not send out their monthly email announcing the event--at least that's what I heard. No matter, it was still a very successful event and there was a good turnout.

As usual, your's truly, the Lake Mary Food Critic, was in attendance at Art Affair Gallery. I served my Blue-Be-Q Chicken Tacos and they were quite a hit. I got lots of compliments on them and hopefully garnered some new readers for my blog. On the other side of the gallery, Tom Abbott was doing a demonstration in his exhibit, "Taking Paint to the Next Dimension." Judging from all the comments I heard, his work was quite popular. And out front, two other Art Affair Gallery artists, Rick Crawford and Burl (Ji Ji) Langston were doing demonstrations as well as shoveling about a lot of bull and having a good time. The gallery was quite busy the whole time and had a great turnout.

Just down the street, Gallery on First / Jeanine Taylor Folk Art also has a nice turnout, and several of the resident artists were there to chat with guests. And around the corner and down the block, Riverhouse Pottery also enjoyed a nice turnout. They had a special exhibition by an artist whose name I've forgotten, but I sure loved his work, very imaginative and creative--I loved it a lot. And of course, there's always Little Fish Huge Pond, quite the eclectic place--you really owe it to yourself to take a peek! And last but not least, it's always nice to check out Framing 508 Gallery, just down the street a few blocks on Palmetto.

Afterwards, a number of artists and hangers-on (such as moi) gathered at Two Blondes and a Shrimp for a few drinks and some munchies (Tommy and I had the nachos, they were very good). I was a bit disappointed with the service, it was a bit slow this night--however, they were very busy so I guess that is a good thing (being busy, that is)--they just seemed a bit short-staffed. I did notice waiter Thron was working his butt off and he did take good care of us--along with quite a few other tables! I spied the manager once or twice but he was mostly absent from the courtyard where we were seated. Odd, since I know he's met most of us at one time or another--maybe he didn't see us. But still, the drinks were cold and we had a good time chatting and unwinding for about an hour or so. I can't wait for the next Art Walk, I'm sure it too will be a lot of fun.

Polonia Polish Restaurant

I love Polish food, and Polonia Polish Restaurant is one of my favorite restaurants. I went there for lunch the other day with my friends Ewa and Joe. We had a great lunch and each left with enough for another meal later.

Joe and Ewa had the Easter Soup, żurek. They said it was very good. I started out with the barszcz or beet soup. It was also very good though I did notice some cabbage in it, something I'm not used to. Still, it was very good.

I had the Polish Combo which was two pierogi (one potato and cheese, one sauerkraut and mushroon, a gołubki with mushroom sauce, and a biała kiełbasa--white (fresh, not smoked) Polish sausage. It was all very good. And after starting with the barszcz, I had plenty to take home to enjoy another time.

Ewa had the Wazanki, a dish made of kluski (polish egg noodles similar to German spaetzle), bacon, cabbage, garlic, and onion, all cooked together in the pan. I had a sample, and it was very good. Of course, with bacon in it, how can you go wrong. Ewa, a native of Poland, pronounced it very good as well, high praise indeed!

Joe had the pork cutlet, very similar to a schnitzel. A cut of pork loin was pounded thin, breaded and fried to perfection. For his sides, he chose the red cabbage (one of my favorite sides at polonia) and teh saukerkraut (another of my favorite sides because it is more than just sauerkraut, it has a ton of flavor). He, too, loved his dish.  

 Though we were all very full, our waitress managed to tempt us with a slice of Chocolate torte. She wisely brought three forks. It was rich and creamy and very chocolaty. Though we were all full, it was hard to resist the goodness of this dessert--and we gave in to the temptation. It was wonderful.

Always a good meal at Polonia, always a good time. It's why I keep coming back time after time. Bardzo Smaczne! (Good Eats!)
Polonia Polish Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 26, 2010


When you want a consistently good meal at a fair price with pretty fast, efficient, and friendly service, I've often found Applebee's to be the answer. My recent late evening dinner there was no exception!

My friend Tommy and I stopped there just after the dinner hour the other night for a bite to eat. We were quickly seated, drink order taken and provided, and our order taken. They have a new system there with an electronic "waitstaff notifier" system where you press a button and your waiter get's a page to visit your table, but the service was pretty attentive and we didn't really get to try it out--except for the food trivia game on the device!

My side salad arrived in due time and was very good. They sure give you a lot of salad fro your money and it was nice and fresh and tasty--all a salad should be with an ample portion for a low price. I liked that.

For my entree I chose the "lite" Spicy Shrimp Diavolo--A spicy tomato-basil Diavolo sauce with chili-seasoned shrimp tossed with diced vegetables. It was served over a warm bed of whole wheat penne pasta and topped with shredded Parmesan, at least according to the menu description. I'm betting that some of the cheese on top was mozzarella, however, since it was shredded and gooey. Not a bad thing though. And the vegetables seemed to be mostly roasted red peppers--but very tasty. Though advertised as "spicy," I'd say it was "American spicy"--that is, rather tame by my standards. Yet it was flavorful and very good. And, a big point with me, the shrimp were not dreadfully overcooked. They were good, done just about right. So it was a very good dish and I liked it a lot. I will say that the presentation was a bit lost with the tomato/red pepper sauce on a red plate in somewhat dim lighting--but still a good dish, taste-wise.

Tommy had the Margherita Chicken--a tender grilled chicken breast with a tangy balsamic glaze layered with melted mozzarella and Parmesan, and topped with fresh bruschetta. It was served with garlic mashed potatoes and broccoli. The chicken was very good and had a nice char-grilled flavor to it--probably from a bottle or can, but still a pretty nice flavor, almost as good as the real thing but maybe just a bit too char-grilled tasting. The chicken was also quite moist and tender. But I think the star of this was the mashed potatoes--they were among the best I've ever tasted. Creamy and buttery with little chunks of potatoes in them, they were well done. Yumm. The broccoli was just OK, perhaps a bit overcooked, though when he put a bit of lemon juice on it, that did improve the flavor.

Overall we had a very nice meal here. It's a great place for a spur of the moment dinner--nothing fancy, just simple and reasonalby-priced good eats!
Applebee's on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 14, 2010

BBQ Chicken Pizza

I love good pizza--the traditional type--but every once in a while I like to change it up a bit. So the other night I made homemade BBQ Chicken Pizza.

I already had one of the main ingredients on hand--leftover barbecued chicken from some appetizers I prepared the other night. You can find the recipe elsewhere in my blog here. Basically I slow cooked chicken thighs and then cooked them some more, long and slow, in a homemade barbecue sauce until they were tender, juicy, and quite barbecu-ey--if that's a word.

For my pizza crust I "cheated" and used the dough setting on my breadmaker--it turns out perfect pizza dough every time in just 90 minutes. For the liquid I like to use beer--it adds a pleasant flavor and aroma to the dough.

Assembling was a cinch. I cut the dough in half, then stretched it out into a sort of wierd looking circular like thing. No matter, I was not going for perfect geometry, just great pizza. I brushed the outer edge of the crust with olive oil, then brushed a very fine layer of Barbecue sauce on it--I like Bulls-Eye which has always gotten good ratings from America's Test Kitchen. Then I placed on gobs of the barbecued chicken on it. Next I sliced some red onions in quarter-inch slices, cut them in half, and separated into rings and spread liberally on top.  Finally I topped it with a four-cheese mexican cheese mix, then baked on a pizza stone. It turned out excellent, as you can see in this picture:

3-6-9 Chinese Restaurant

I had a very good dinner here on my Birthday on a recent Friday night. My friend Tommy wanted to take me out to celebrate and I love good Chinese food, so we decided to give 3-6-9 Chinese Restaurant in Winter Springs a try, based on some good reviews it got on I'm glad we gave it a try.

The restaurant was not very busy when we were there, though the did seem to be doing quite a booming take-out business. A friend at work who lives in the area confirmed their popularity as a take-out place. I can see why, we had a good meal here.

We were promptly greeted and seated and drinks ordered and brought. We decided to start with an order of the Pan Fried Dumplings. They were wonderful. Six dumplings had been stuffed with a mixture of meat, napa cabbage, and vegetables, then fried. They were served with some soy sauce that was also very good, not as heavy or salty as the stuff you normally get. This was sure a good start to the meal. They were so good that we snatched up and ate two of them even before I could snap a picture!

For soup, Tommy ordered the Won Ton soup and I had a sip. It had a nice bright flavor, delicate yet delicious. Several good-sized won-tons floate in the broth and a few noodles and scallions graced it. A very good soup.

For my soup I ordered my current favorite, Hot and Sour Soup. It was indeed hot and sour. It had a nice little kick to it but I'd have liked a bit more of a kick. I'm used to seeing more ingredients in my normal hot and sour soup, here i mostly noticed tofu, bamboo shoots, egg, and carrots. It had a nice flavor, just was a bit different that any other hot and sour soup I've had before.

For his main course, Tommy chose the Hong Kong Combo--chicken, shrimp, and pork had been battered in a tempura-like batter, then deep fried and then sauteed with assorted vegetables. It was served with fried rice. Overall, it was a very good dish, and there was a lot of it. Tommy took home the leftovers and said it tasted even better the next day. I had a tast of this too and it was indeed very good.

For my entree I had the Five Flavored Chicken--it was listed as a hot dish and it was pleasantly hot. I loved that. I was shredded chicken sauteed with celery, carrots, water chestnuts, and mushrooms in a hot five-flavor sauce. Whatever the five flavors were, they were plenty tasty. I also had the fried rice. And I also enjoyed this dish immensely. I'd even rate it outstanding. And the leftovers were equally good the next day when I had them for my lunch. A wondeful dish.

We had a very nice meal here at 3-6-9 and I'd certainly go there again. They're one of the best Chinese restaurants I've eaten at and worth the 20 minute drive from Lake Mary to Winter Springs. The service was pleasant and attentive as well, we did not want for anything, and all our needs were very quickly taken care of. Love this place!
3-6-9 Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Chef Henry's Cafe

hen my dear friend Ewa asked where I'd like to meet for dinner on my birthday, I did not hesitate: Chef Henry's Cafe, of course! Since they've reopened in Longwood, I've been to Chef Henry's a number of times and have always enjoyed the food there.

So, on a recent Friday afternoon, Joe and Ewa and I got together at Chef Henry's Cafe for lunch. It was all i knew it could be. We were quickly greeted and given our choice of a table. The tables were nicely laid out with white tablecloths and napkins. Adorning the table were a few marble pellets of varrious shapes, a nice and festive touch of class. It did not take us long to decide what we wanted.

Ewa ordered the "pick three" trio of appetizers. For her choices she decided on the day's special Split Pea with Ham soup, Halušky, and Bryndzovnik. Halušky are a potato dumpling, similar to a spaetzle. They were served with bacon and scallions and a creamy sauce of some sort. Ewa proclaimed them delicious. Bryndzovnik is a puff pastry filled with sliced potatoes, sour cream and cheese. It was served on bed of mixed greens and topped with a creamy cucumber and dill dressing. Also excellent as you can see in this picture:

Joe ordered the special of the day, a three course meal. For the first course, he had the Split Pea with Ham Soup. For the main course, a piece of haddock was nicely baked and served over a puffed pastry (like the Bryndzovnik) that was stuffed with potatoes, sour cream, and cheese. This was served on a bed of some sliced and fresh cooked green beans and topped with a delicious cream sauce and a bit of tomato. Joe said it was very good and the fish cooked perfectly. It even looks great in this picture:
For the dessert cake, he had some banana cake. But it was no ordinary banana cake. Rather it was several layers of a light chocolate mousse, tender bananas in pudding, a light cake, and whipped cream. It was truly divine.

I started out with a bowl of the soup of the day, the Split Pea with Ham soup. This was certainly no soup out of the can--it was very good. You could tell that a ham bone gave it's all for this soup, it had a great mouth feel and a nice texture. Bits of ham and carrot and peas all floated around and gave it a wonderful taste. This was a really, really good soup. I loved it!

By the way, you can notice just to the top left of the plate, there are some of the table decorations--what a nice touch that was.

For my main course, I decided to try a sandwich. I had one who's name I can't remember, but I sure can remember the taste: it was basically a pork schnitzel--pounded breaded and fried pork. It was excellent, nice and tender, juicy, and flavorful. It came out hot and just perfect, served on a nice hearty white bun with some lettuce, tomato, and mayo. Nothing else was needed, the meat was truly the star of this sandwich. I did not read the menu well and so it came out with french fries (usually I try to get a salad instead). Well, since they were there, I had to have some. I must say the fries were the least favorite part of my meal. They were hot and tasty, but ever so slightly overcooked, and the oil they were cooked in was a bit old and overused--it should have been changed. But the fries were my only complaint about this meal.

Our service was very good and we had a wonderful time. It was a nice and memorable way for me to celebrate my birthday--with good friends and good food! Smacznego!
Chef Henry's on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Alive After Five: Blues & Bar-Be-Q a huge success!

The June 10th Alive After Five is history and it was a fun time, for sure. My friend Tom Abbott has a lot of his artwork at Art Affair Gallery in downtown Sanford and this Alive After Five had an opening for a show of a lot of his new stuff in the gallery's showroom. Tom specializes in three-dimensional art using paint and other media. He really does take paint to a new dimension!

The art show opening was very well attended an yours truly catered the appetizers. I made Blue-Be-Q Chicken Tacos and My Sangria's Got the Blues. Both were very well received--I got a lot of favorable comments. Because I was busy serving, I did not get to many of the other Alive After Five venues, but I did get out and find there was a nice crowd. A number of friends came to see the opening, sample the food, and enjoy Alive After Five as well. The gallery  was packed most of the evening, and Tom received lots of ohhs and ahhs about his work. Overall, it was a very sucessful party--once again?

Next month for Alive After Five: International Night on July 8th. I'll be there, will you??

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Blue-Be-Q Chicken Tacos

At this month's Alive After Five in Downtown Sanford, my friend Tommy is having the opening of his art show at Art Affair Gallery. I am making the food. We are having two things: Bleu-Be-Q Chicken Tacos and My Sangria's got the Blues. This article is about how I made the Blue-Be-Q Chicken Tacos.

Blue-Be-Q Chicken Tacos are my own invention, though based on various recipes and ideas I found on the Internet. But I have upped the ante and improved on the concept. And, lucky for you, I'm willing to share my secrets.

Blue-Be-Q Chicken Tacos consist of four distinct element, ranging in complexity from extremely simple to quite complex:
  1. a Tortilla (quite simple)
  2. Barbecued Chicken (very complex)
  3. Blue Cheese Coleslas (complex)
  4. Shredded Sharp Cheddar cheese (simple, unless you make your own cheese!)
1) For the tortilla, I wanted to make this an appetizer, a bite or two only. So I took a large flour tortilla and I used a 2-1/2 inch round cookie/biscuit cutter to cute seven rounds out of an approximately 10" tortilla. Quite simple with a bit of muscle

2) This is the complicated part. Smoke some chicken thighs, bone-in, skin on. The need to be smoked low and slow (250 degrees) for about 5 or so hours, until the meat is falling off the bone tender. You can, however, cheat. Put the bone-in, skin-on thighs on a half sheet pan, cover with strips of hickory smoked bacon, and cook in a 350-degree oven for 3-4 hours. Be careful so the grease and drippings don't overflow.

Once the chicken is cool, pick off the bacon and reserve, pick off the skin, and pull the chicken off the bones, discarding any gristle. Save all the meat.

Fry up some diced onions in a bit of fat or butter until soft, then add the chicken meat. Now's the time for the spices. Add the following (amounts are for about 5#--before cooking) of smoked chicken thighs:
  • Cumin - 2 Tablespoons
  • Chili powder -- 2 Tablespoons
  • Smoked Paprika -- 1-2 Tablespoons
  • Cayenne -- 1/2 to 1 Tablespoon
  • Cider Vinegar -- 1/2 cup
  • Vodka -- 1/4 cup
  • Tomato sauce -- 8 oz.
  • Ketchup -- 12 oz.
Meanwhile, chop the bacon up fine, and add this to the mixture as well. If you cheated using the bacon, you can also add about 1/4 teaspoon of liquid hickory smoke. 

Allow this to simmer on low heat for severa hours up to 8 hours, stirring occasionallyl

3) The coleslaw is easy if you buy a bag of mixed green cabbage, red cabbage, and carrots at Publix. Or buy those things and shred them yourself. For a 1 pound bag, make the dressing:
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 Tablespoons Cider Vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons grainly mustard (I recommend Silver Springs Beer & Brat Mustard if you can find it--its' the best)
  • About 1/4 of a fresh pineapple (cored and skinned of course), finely diced
  • 4-5 oz of crumbled blue cheese. Save your money here, you don't need the Maytag brand. Any good Wisconsin crumbled blue cheese (yes, even in a plastic container) will suffice.
Mix all the ingredients together. This is best done the night before to allow the flavors to blend

4) Buy a bag of shredded sharp cheddar, or shred your own. the cheese is optional.

To assemble:
  1. 1 Tortilla round
  2. Place about a Tablespoon of Chicken Taco mix on it (about an ounce)
  3. Place a half tablespoon of Blue Cheese coleslaw on that.
  4. Garnish with just a bit of cheese.
  5. Fold up like a taco and serve.
  6. Stand back and accept the praise--these are darned good.
I hope you enjoyed this recipe. It really is very easy to make. My best advice is to taste as you go along. Salt and pepper can be added if desired, but be careful, most chicken is already brined so you should have plenty of salt already.

That's all there is to it. Let me know what you think!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Fresh on the Fly

I am a convert--I love it! I had dinner at Fresh on the Fly the other night with my friend Tommy and we had a very nice dining experience. If you read my postings on, you may have noticed that I was not totally thrilled with Fresh on the Fly after a recent lunch experience--my lukewarm fish tacos contained little fish and were served open-faced on the same plate as my coleslaw. Guess what the tortillas were swimming in--coleslaw sauce. And my friend was served barely lukewarm fries. However, the food did taste good (and the fries replaced) and my lunch companions loved their meals, so my vote was "like it." Well, after my dinner experience at Fresh on the Fly the other night, i will confirm that vote--I like this place! Well, maybe I even love it!

My friend and I arrived around 6 or 7 on a Saturday evening. It was not very busy, but a good half dozen or more tables were full. We were quickly welcomed and told we could sit anywhere. We were quickly given menus. Within a short time, we put in our drink order: a house Cabernet and a house White Zin--$4 was not a bad price at all for a house wine, so many places charge outrageous prices for mediocre wine. In due time our drinks arrive and we placed an order for some appetizers.

For our first appetizer, we had the On The Fly Golden Breaded Mahi Mahi Bites--bite size pieces of mahi-mahi were breaded and deep fried, then served with a choice of sauces: Jalapeno Tartar, Key Lime Cocktail and Chipotle. The best part of this appetizer was the sauces, especially the jalapeno tartar--it has a nice bite to it. But each of the sauces was actually very good in its own right. The mahi bites were OK--they could have benefit from a bit more flavor in the breading and just a touch of salt. They were good, but not great. But, as I mentioned, the standout of this dish were the sauces, excellent, each one! 

For a second appetizer, we had the Cracker Crusted Fried Green Tomatoes. A stack of nicely breaded and fried green tomatoes was accompanied by a bit of perppercorn aioli, a nice accompaniment to the sharpness of the fried green tomatoes. My only complaint would be a bit unevenness in salting--a few slices were overly salted, a few undersalted. But overall, this was a very goo dish. The light breading was great and adhered well to the thin slices of green tomatoes. The presentation was very nice, though to me I didn't quite understand the small bit of diced red tomatoes. No matter, it as a very good dish and we enjoyed it thoroughly.

My friend Tommy ordered the Spicy Manhattan-Style Floridian Fish Chowder. This, for me, was a real standout. The thing I noticed most about it was the bright tomato flavor. Excellent in all regards. Next time I eat here (and there will be a next time), I will certainly have to have some of this excellent soup. Yumm!

I had a side salad with my dinner, in this case, the Island Style Salad. Spring Mix Greens were served with Mandarin Oranges, Toasted Coconut, a bit of vocado, a few Diced Red Peppers, and all was tossed in a Caribbean Mango Dressing, It was very good. the coconut was, to me, a bit unusual on a salad, but it worked very well. The taste of the avocado was a bit lost, but not the rich creaminess of it. It was a very good salad, nice and fresh.

For his main course, my friend Tommy ordered the Crispy Fried Flounder Sandwich. This was hand breaded and deep fried haddock, served on a white roll with lettuce, tomato, and onion, and also served with Key Lime Cocktail Sauce and a Jalapeno Tartar Sauce. It was a very good sandwich, made all the more good by the accompanying sauces. What a delightful meal this was.

For my main course I had the Seared Wild Caught Salmon which was served over Coconut Rice and was topped with Island Style Salad and Chipotle Sauce. The presentation was excellent, first of all. The bit of island salad on the top was accented by several intersting flavor on the plate. The salmon itself was nicely seasoned and cooked perfectly--some of the best salmon I've had. The coconut rice was a tad undercooked and I did not get any sense of coconut in it. It wasn't bad, just did not shout "coconut" to me in any way, shape or form. Overall, this was an excellent dish, tasty and flavorful. I'd order it again, or recommend it to friends. 

We had a very nice dinner at Fresh on the Fly. The have indeed redeemed themselves. The food all came out hot and in a timely manner. Each plate looked great and tasted as good as it lookes. I was particularly taken in by the various sauces, quite a nice job. I'll be sure to eat here again, it could become a Lake Mary favorite of mine some day!
Fresh on the Fly on Urbanspoon

Viennas Restaurant and Cafe

A charming place with good food, that's how I'd sum up my experience at Vienna's Restaurant and Cafe the other night. We went there for the food and were not disappointed.

First off, I am a bit confused by the name. On, it's called Vienna's Restaurant and Cafe which I'd say aptly describes the place. However, their web site and signage advertises them as Viennas Coffeehouse--they do have coffee but that's only a part of what they offer. Nonetheless, I'd say this is a fairly good place to eat in Debary, but the name is a bit confusing. On top of that, they also offer catering services. Oh well...

Viennas is set up with a European atmosphere. When we entered the building, we found ourselves in a big wide lobby--there are other businesses in this plaza. But then you go through that lobby to enter Viennas itself. In the front of the restaurant there are a few tables and some counters or display racks with desserts and the like. Walking past this, you arrive at the dining area, a large room with a prominent fireplace. I'd guess it holds about 50 people. When we arrived, one table had opened up, otherwise they were full--a good sign. Christopher, our waiter, quickly showed us to a table and wiped it down almost immediately. Christopher had a slight German accent and explained to us that he had only been in this country for about 6 week. He did a good job.

I was there with my friend Tommy and we both ordered a cup of the soup of the day, a creamless Creamy Tomato Basil. Yumm, it had a great flavor. It did appear to be indeed creamless. My guess is perhpas thickened with breadcrumbs and then pureed. However it was done, it was a success, I liked it a lot. I will say it could have been a bit hotter, and this was a theme that seemed to run throughout our meal--most everything could have been just a bit hotter. Nonetheless, this way I didn't have to blow on it to cool it or wait. It was so good I ate it rather quickly. It was very, very good.

I had a side salad with my meal. The salad was good, nice and fresh. The dressing was a roasted garlic viniagrette. It was very good, though I will say the roasted garlic was not a predominant flavor. Nevertheless, it was a good salad, nice and refreshing, and a nice prelude to the rest of the meal to come.

I should mention the beer list. Viennas has a somewhat extensive offering of European beers. I tried two of them, on a Czech Republic Black Ale called Krušovice. It was interesting. A bit sweet for my liking, but not bad. The second one I tried was a Polish beer, Okocim Mocne. It's a malt liquor. I'm not a huge malt liquor fan, but it was good, though again just a bit on the sweet side for my taste. I will say I was able to give our waiter the correct pronounciation of the Polish beer--he pronounced it mokne... but it's more like motsne. A small point. But I did like the nice selection of European (and American) beers that they have. They are, however, a bit pricey, but that's to be expected since they are not commonly found here in central Florida.

When we were first seated, our waiter did warn us that the kitchen was a bit backed up (recall we got the only open table) and so service was a bit slow. I like that he let us know that up front. True to his word, service was a bit slow. However, it was not excruciatingly slow and we enjoyed our pauses between courses.

Eventually our entrees arrived. Tommy ordered one of their specials--a chicken breast stuffed with blue cheese and apples and served with linguine and spinach. Oh my! This was a very good dish. I was afraid the blue cheese would be overpowering, but it was not. It's sharpness was tempered by the acid of the apples--I'd guess them to be granny smith or some similar tart variety. The chicken was very tender and the apples and blue cheese worked together--it was a very good dish. The linguine and spinach, though, was pretty ordinary. I could have benefit from a bit of parmesan or romano. It wasn't bad, just not all that special, I thought. But overall, this was a very good dish.

I ordered the Chicken Cordon Bleu. It came with a choice of two sides and I had the red cabbage and the spaetzle. The chicken for the chicken cordon bleu was very tender and juicy, though maybe just a bit on the salty side. I'd guess it had been brined, and just a bit slightly over-brined. It actually was a large chicken breast that had a pocket cut into it and was stuffed with swiss cheese and ham. The bread was then breaded and baked, perhpas in a salamander because the top was nice and crisply  I liked this a lot, it was very good. The red cabbage was also very good, though only warm an not hot. Anyway, it was very tasty and well done, brasied correctly with no cabbagey flavor or odor. The spaetzle was good enough, but a bit on the plain side, dressed only in butter and parsley. I'd have liked some gravy of some sort to go with it. It too was just warm, not piping hot. It was good, just not great. But overall, it was a very, very good meal.

We had a nice time here at Vienna's. The food was good, the service was attentive (well, except for the one iced tea refill reminder) and the atmosphere nice. They were faily busy, a testament to their popularity, though we did not see any line at any time either. Still, it was a good time with good food and I would not hesitate to eat here again.

Viennas Restaurant and Cafe on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 5, 2010

White Cup Coffeehouse

What an amazing, warm, and friendly place this is! If I had White Cup Coffeehouse in my neighborhood, I'd rarely be at home, it's that fun. My friend and I came here the other night because another friend, and artist, was having an opening for a show. One wall of White Cup Coffeehouse is devoted to artwork, and that's where John's art was displayed.

I found John's art amazing, in part because of the technique he employed. On 11x17 pieces of high quality white pine, he did pencil drawings of the signs of the zodiac. Then he had them copied--literally laid on a high quality copier and copied. The copies are framed and are available individually. Then he used paint and colors and went to work on the panels and colored them. They really are unique and I love the flow and the lines and colors in them.

But that's not the end. Once they were all done, he returned to the Office store and had them copied, and copies printed out on high quality photo paper. They really are unique and quite nice. He sold a number of them last night while we were there. In the picture to the left, John is on the left and another artist and friend, Tom Abbott is on the right. the colored panels are behind Tom. You really have to stop in if you're in the area just to see the art.

But that is not the end of this story, because this is a food blog and now to the food part. Well, I only had an Iced Mocha Latte there, so that is all the "food" i can speak to. And it was good, though I am no coffee expert. But I am an atmosphere expert and that is what I found there--a great atmosphere. From the moment I walked in the door, I felt welcome and like a part of the family. We were there a good hour and a half and spent the time chatting with various folks there. It turns out that White Cup has quite a local following, people gathering there every day for a few hours to chat, have coffee, smoothies, desserts, and even sandwiches at lunchtime. It's like a large group of friends. I truly felt like I'd made new friends after I left, or felt like I'd spent the evening with some of my best friends--and they were all strangers an hour or so ago.

White Cup Coffeehouse is not a huge place, but is quaintly decorated. They also have an outdoors seating area which would be perfect on a nice spring or fall day, or early or late on a summer day. If you visit--and I highly recommend that you stop in--you will feel like an old friend as soon as you walk in that door. It's an eclectic hangout, for sure. Art on the walls, sometimes live music, in a tiny place where you will find friends as well as, I am told, exceptional coffee. I've read some of the reviews on urbanspoon and they all speak highly of the coffee and atmosphere. Give it a try, check it out in Debary, right near Highbanks road on 19-92. If you're in the area, give it a try, you'll be glad you did.The White Cup Coffeehouse on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Next Alive After Five -- June 10th

The Next Alive After Five event in Downtown Sanfor will be held on June 10th, 5-8 PM. For the price of a $7 wristband, you get two beer tickets and a chance to sample food from somewhere around 30 different vendors. Some of the food is your standard meatballs that have been cooked in a grape jelly/chili sauce mixture. Some are quite yummy and alcoholic like "Cowboy Punch." And some are just downright good eats. You be the judge. 

First Street is blocked off for the event. There will be a stage set up on the corner of First and Palmetto, and just down the street Steve's TailGator will be set up serving something delicious. 

Of course my big interest in this next Alive After Five is because I'll be serving some goodies in the Art Affair Gallery on the corner of Palmetto and First Street. The occasion? My good friend and artist Tom Abbott is having the opening reception for this new show: "Taking Paint to the Next Dimension" and I am catering the reception. On my menu:
  • Blue-Be-Q Chicken Tacos
  • I got the Blues Sangria
What is it all about? Well, I guess you'll just have to come and see it to find out, won't you. Add it to your calendar today. And get their early...quantities are limited! 
 So come on down to downtown Sanford on Thursday June 10th and find out what all the fuss is about. You will not be disappointed with what the Orlando Sentinel called the area's best kept secret!