Thursday, October 17, 2013

Celery Soup: Remade Not Bought

"Remade Not Bought" is the title of this year's presentation of stories of Sanford and Seminole County by the local Celery Soup players. These are tales of life in years gone buy as recorded for posterity, gathered from some of Sanford and Seminole County's oldest and most distinguished residents. Tales of life long ago.

This year's performances are are held at the Princess Theater in historic downtown Sanford (115 W. 1st. St., Sanford, FL 32771; 321-578-1463):

  • October 18th -- November 3rd
  • Friday and Saturday -- 7:30 PM
  • Sunday --  2:00 PM
  • Doors open 30 minutes before performance
Opening Night Cocktail Party

This year, the Friday Night October 18th opening night performance will be preceded by a cocktail party for all ticket holders at 6 PM at Gallery on First, two blocks west of the theater. At 7 PM, Jeanine Taylor, the founder of Celery Soup, will lead all invited guest into the theater through the backstage entrance.

  Wine will be provided by local resident artist Tom Abbott, and yours truly, the Lake Mary Food Critic is providing celery appetizers. Here is what I am preparing and links to the original recipes. Note that, as a lover of food, I have taken these recipes as a "guide" only and have taken some liberties with proportions and ingredients. But I hope you find them all to be good eats!

Celery Soda

Wasabi Celery Root Slaw

Chilled Cream of Celery Soup

Olive Stuffed Celery

Cheddar Cheese Stuffed Celery

Blue Cheese and Pecan Stuffed Celery

Peanut Butter Stuffed Celery

  1. Recipe by Taste of Home

Bacon and Horseradish Stuffed Celery

Check back after the event for some pictures! And if you stop in, make sure to introduce yourself to me, the Lake Mary Food Critic!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Port Steak & Seafood

I am hesitant to visit a new restaurant too soon after they've opened, but my recent visit to The Port Steak & Seafood in Sanford proved my fears groundless--I had an excellent meal there. They have only been open a week in a beautiful space right on Lake Monroe, but also the site of (at least) two previous restaurants that did not survive. I am hopeful that this one will, as Sanford needs (and deserves) a good steak and seafood place. 

It was a gorgeous October night with mild temperatures, and we walked to The Port from downtown Sanford. We were promptly greeted by a very attentive young man who, as I noticed during the course of the evening, not only acted as the host but fulfilled a number of other duties such as refilling drinks, checking on guests, and running food. To me this is the indication of a well trained staff, and experienced member, or both. He was quite young so I think the training is the answer!  

After a short wait our waitress, Jennifer, appeared. We ordered some Iced Tea and the Smoked Fish Dip Appetizer. Now, if first impressions mean anything, this was not that great. Wrapped Salines! Ugh! You know, it does not take much to go to Sam's Club or Aldi's (which are not that far away) and get some nice fancy crackers and arrange them on a plate. I think wrapped saltines like these are really deserving of a diner or a dive, not a nice restaurant. However.... the fish dip was really very nice and we enjoyed it. And after all, the appetizer was called a "smoked fish dip" and not "crackers with some stuff on them." So it was all about the fish dip, and that was good. But, if you're listening, Port, get some real crackers, please! 

For my entree I ordered the Fried Shrimp. For sides I chose the coleslaw, and Grits. Now, I certainly know my shrimp. I'm always hesitant to order fried shrimp, which I truly love, because I am usually disappointed by thick breading and overcooked shrimp. Well, i am happy to report the my shrimp were simply outstanding, among the best I have ever, EVER had!  Yes, they were that good. There were about 10 large shrimp, butterflied. They had a very light batter coating and when fried were light and delicious without any greasiness. And they were cooked absolutely perfectly. To perfection. I was very impressed. My coleslaw as OK, just ordinary I'd say. But the grits were also very good. So many places just throw some grits in milk and water, add salt, and cook them. These were very good, with a hint of onion and maybe something else, very mysterious, very good. I was more than satisfied with my meal. Best shrimp I've had in many, many years, actually. I'll be back!

My friend Tommy ordered the Coconut Chicken. Unfortunately, we had a bit of a misstep here, as the waitress (perhaps on the heels of my shrimp order) thought he ordered coconut shrimp. However, she was very apologetic and maybe five minutes later produced the ordered dish. It was also very good. The chicken was very moist and tender. Neither of us were big fans of the honey mustard that came with it, but both the shrimp sauce and the tartar sauce were much better with it, we thought. It was served with a baked sweet potato (with a side of brown sugar) and some fresh sauteed veggies. They were both very good, as well. But the chicken was the true star of this dish, and it was very good.

A bit later a manager stopped by to apologize for the misstep as well, and to check on us, an nice touch as well.

The Port is on a beautiful site. We ate outside, right along Lake Monroe which is really just a very wide spot on the St. John's river. It really was a very enjoyable evening and we hope to return again soon. Now that I've gotten the seafood part of their menu out of the way, i want to try the steak part, and maybe some of the sandwiches. The menu is very nice and very appealing. I'm sure we'll be back again soon. And you know that I'll give you my honest opinion, good or bad, about their food, service and value. But as of my first visit, and considering that they've been open less than a week, I am very impressed and very hopeful.
The Port Steak & Seafood on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Ravalia's Fresh Pasta & Italian Grill

We ate at Ravalia's Fresh Pasta & Italian Grill last night, and I'm sure glad we did--the food was excellent, way beyond expectation. I was excited to learn that there was a new Italian place in town, and even more excited when I saw a few of the other "thumbs up" reviews on I am now one of them and a big fan, I'll definitely be back.

We arrived on a Friday night to see what appeared to be a lot of cars in the area and a steady stream of people heading for the door. We were promptly greeted and told it would be a do-able 20 minute wait, unless we wanted to sit at the counter overlooking the kitchen. You bet! Score!  I love watching a well-run kitchen at work, and that certainly was the case here. We saw then put out dish after dish for fresh made food and everything we saw looked amazing, from the pizza and calazones to the pasta dishes and even the sauce. 

Our waitress, Jen, promptly provided a wine menu and took our drink order while we perused the menu. Meanwhile a plate of bread magically appeared. It was excellent.  We had olive oil and balsamic vinegar and a small dish for them and heartily dug in. The bread was great. And, by the way, the wine pour was a decent pour and good wine to boot.

For his main course, Tommy had the Chicken Parmesan, and it was absolutely delicious. The chicken itself was quite tender, the parmesan flavor was good and the mozzarella nice and gooey. It was served with rigatoni that was quite al dente and a tomato sauce that was really excellent. The tomato sauce was very bright and flavorful, not too sweet, with a hint of acid (maybe red wine vinegar) that really brightened the flavor. I could probably drink it by the glass-full--it was that good. My only thought is that the rigatoni could have been cooked just a slight bit more, but they were still good.

I chose the Tortellacci with Crimini Mushroom Cream Sauce. The flavor was outstanding. Tortellacci are large tortelloni which are in turn large tortellini. They were stuffe with sausage and were a very nice size, maybe 8-12 of them. The crimini mushroom cream sauce, while perhaps not the prettiest think on the plate, was an absolute delight to taste and eat. It had a nice, delicate mushroom flavor that did not overpower the sausage-stuffed tortellacci, which were themselves very good. The fresh pasta was evident, it was nice and tender as well.

We had great service during our meal and a wonderful time watching the kitchen at work. The place is not very big, but sure was doing a nice business. the host (maybe the owner) was certainly evident and ensured the front of the house was moving smoothly. The head chef was definitely in control of the two other chefs in the kitchen. I was impressed overall by the smooth operation.

One comment is that their web site,, at the current time, only contains information and the menu from their original restaurant, in Casselberry. It needs a bit of updating as the Lake Mary menu is a bit different. But other than that, I cannot wait to return. Since my favorite Italian Restaurant in Lake Mary changed hands and then closed, I've been missing a place like Ravalia's. I'll definitely be back. I suggest you give it a try and let me know what you think!

Ravalia's Fresh Pasta & Italian Grill on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Taste of Sanford 2013

We went to Taste of Sanford the other night and once again got stuffed. It was a nice affair, fairly busy though not packed. So without further ado, I'll tell you about the food I had, the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

First off, the good.  My favorite "bite" of the evening was from Carrabba's Italian Grill, which recently opened a Sanford location. Without a doubt, they had the best bite: two goat-cheese stuffed ravioli with an alfredo and sun-dried tomato sauce, and some grilled chicken marsala. The depth of flavor of the mushrooms and the marsala was very, very good. It was by far the best thing I put in my mouth that night. Nice job, Carrabba's, and welcome to Sanford!

Also good:

  • The Meatball sub from Firehouse subs. It really was wonderful and the meatball itself was very good.
  • Debary Plantation had a nice bite as well, but at the moment, my memory is failing me. What was it? I remember it being good, however. 
  • Mr Fed's catering from Orlando had some awesome brisket, and his home-made BBQ sauce really rocked!
  • Chianti's had a decent sausage marinara with ziti, but the garlic knots really stole the show.
A few places came in "middle of the road" in my estimation:
  • The Breezeway had it's signature pork sandwich--thankfully a much scaled down version. It's really a good sandwich, i must admit.
  • Corner Cafe had a repeat of last year, and the year before, and the year before.... bacon wrapped figs and celery soup. Good stuff, but what else do you have there? 
  • Dockside bar and grill made me want to visit again. 
And a few places really were disappointing:
  • Colonial Room had a chicken and dumplings with a dumpling that was so dense it could have stopped a bullet.
  • Buck's had an apple stuffed chicken breast. The stuffing was tasty but a bit watery, and the chicken was pretty tough, unfortunately.
I must also mention best coffee:
  • Caffe Di Riverwalk. This is an excellent coffee and sandwich shop in Sanford, a real "mom and pop" place where you'll get the best service and food--I was glad to see them there.
And a new kid on the block, the soon to open "The Port Steak & Seafood."  They were quite impressive in that one of their offerings was Oysters on the half shell--the real deal. They were shucking them right there. Though I am not an oyster fan, i heard lots of great comments. This place will open in about two weeks right on the marina in Sanford. They have a location in Haines City which has an 87% "like" on, quite a good rating. I will look forward to visiting once they're opened, the menu looks great and I wish them all the best.

There were lots of great desserts as well, but I did not partake. Some of them looked fantastic and I heard lots of great comments. 

I was a bit disappointed that there were not more local Sanford restaurants there--after all it is called "Taste of Sanford." Specifically, I noticed that the three restaurants voted the "best of Sanford" in the recent issue of Seminole Magazine (and the best Middle Eastern) were not there:

  • Hollerbach's Willow Tree Cafe
  • Marco Dino's Ristorante
  • La Sirena Gorda Cabana
  • Tony's Deli
As a matter of fact, outside of Caffe di Riverwalk and The Vineyard Wine Company, none of the restaurants voted in the "Best of Seminole" were in attendance. I know it can be expensive for a small business to undertake such an effort, but I think the Chamber of Commerce should do more to foster and encourage local places to participate in some way. They can have a caterer from way down in south Orlando, but not a few local places just down the block? What's with that? 

All in all we had a great time and had some great food--and some just OK. But it was a great event and I plan on attending next year again, it's well worth it. I hope to see more local Sanford participation in the future, too. Get a move on that, Chamber of Commerce!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Żubrów-B-Q Sauce

The other day, I made a unique barbecue sauce with a Polish twist. I took a favorite vodka BBQ sauce recipe of mine, but substituted my favorite flavored Polish vodka: Żubrów-B-Q Sauce, made with Żubrówka Vodka (It's pronounced Zhu-BRUFF-ka). Żubrówka  is also called "Bison Grass" vodka because it gets it's flavor from a grass that grows in Poland called "Bison Grass," a favorite food of Polish (European) Bison, a cousin to American Bison (or buffalo). Żubr is the Polish word for Bison. Hopefully it all makes sense to you.

But, with a play on the spiciness of American Buffalo wings, I've made this spicy BBQ sauce and christened it, Żubrów-B-Q Sauce. Here's the recipe:

  • 1/2 cup Żubrówka (Polish Vodka--accept no imitations!)
  • 1 Pint (16 oz) Ketchup (I prefer Hunts with no HFCS)
  • 2/3 Tbsp. freshly roasted and ground Cumin
  • 1 tsp. Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Chili Powder (the hotter the better, I believe)
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Cayenne Pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. Kosher salt
  • Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a simmer, and let simmer 20+ minutes to meld the flavors. Cool and server. Keeps several months in the fridge--if you can get it to last that long. Recipe is easily doubled. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Pine 22

On a recent Thursday evening, we popped in at Pine 22 for a quick bite and were not at all disappointed. It's a neat concept--build your own burger (or BBQ, or chicken, or...well, you get the idea). Add some fries or another side or two and and voila, a meal. I was there with Tommy and our friend Bill as we were attending an art show opening at City Arts Factory right across the street. The place was busy but not crowded. Oh, and they server beer and wine, too--and not just any beer, but with a selection of craft beers. Yumm.

Our food was very good. The pulled pork was tender and juicy with a lot of flavor. The burger was juicy as well. All of their food is organic, grass fed, yada-yada if you're into that sort of thing, though at the very end, I don't think the pig, cow, or chicken really cares because it is...well...the end for them. But what ends up on your plate is certainly delicious. Next time we're at City Arts Factory, you know where we're gonna head for a quick bite to eat as well as a tasty beer! 
Pine 22 on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 20, 2013

CD's Mellons Bar and Grill

We decided to give the newly opened CD's Mellons Bar and Grill a try recently, and I'm glad we did. Good food was our quest, and we found it. We arrived around 6:30 or 7 on a Friday night. They were not very busy and most of the business seemed to be around the bar. As we sat there, I noticed a number of to-go orders going out though, and several patrons eating at the bar.

We were quickly greeted by our waitress, Jacqueline. She was fast, friendly and knew about the items on the menu and knew how they tasted, what was in them, etc. Very impressive. We started out with a glass of wine, a decent pour at a decent price. For an appetizer we ordered the Hand Breaded Fried Mushrooms. They came out fresh and very hot, with a nice horseradish dipping sauce. They were very good. The breading was not thick and overpowering, and they were not at all greasy. The mushrooms were large and very tasty. I'd order them again.

For his sandwich, Tommy had the Bacon Cheeseburger with cheddar cheese. OMG. It was piled high with topings like lettuce, tomato, and onion. It was a delicious sandwich. Now, though he ordered it medium, in truth it was more like well done. fortunately, all the toppings helped it to stay moist and juicy and it was a very tasty sandwich. The cheddar cheese really stood out as well. The accompanying fries were excellent. The appeared to be hand cut, with the skins on, and were perfectly cooked and seasoned. Again, not overly greasy as well, a sign that they were cooked at a proper temperature. I had a bite of the burger and more than a few fries and agree, it was all darned tasty.

For my sandwich I had the CD's Mellons Signature Buffalo Chicken Sandwich. Wow, it was very good. The chicken was fried and moist and tender. The blue cheese was some sort of blue chees croquette, almost like a slice of cheese. The taste of the sandwich was great, it had a nice hot buffalo sauce taste, the chicken was tender, and the taste of the blue cheese added to the experience. My only complaint is not really a complaint, but it was messy. I went through a number of napkins eating this sandwich and as it got to the very end, it just sort of fell apart. But that's OK, I was full. Fortunately our waitress knew what the sandwich was like and provided wet wipes....she knew I'd need them, and I did. But it was a very good sandwich. I ordered Onion Rings to accompany mine, and they were about the tastiest onion rings I've had in a long, long time. Thick slices of sweet onions were breaded in a tempura-like batter that was nicely seasoned. Then when servers, a dusting of Parmesan cheese over them put these over the top. They were delicious.

I really have no major complaints. We had a great meal and a great experience. At the end of the meal the bartender came out and asked me to sample a bit of a new wine, which I did wholeheartedly, a tier 2 cabernet. It was good. As we got to talking, eventually one of the owners joined us. We had a nice conversation. CD's Mellons Bar and Grill is a sports bar. It seems to me it's be a great place for a bite to eat late in the evening, or for a quick lunch during the week. They are a new place and I wish them well. I think I'll be back, for sure. I want another helping of the O-rings and there are a few other things on the menu I want to try!
CD's Mellons Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Habaneros Mexican Grill

We went to Habaneros Mexican Grill in Sanford (Seminole Town Center Mall) recently for dinner and were hopeful for a good experience. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Mediocre (at best) food, spotty service, and a lackluster atmosphere left me longing for some good Mexican food. I doubt that I'll return. 
It's not that the food was bad--it just was not real good. We started with some chips and salsa. Tomato sauce out of a can was about the taste and consistency of the salsa. Not at all inspiring.

For Tommy's main dish he had the Chicken Fajitas. They were OK. Not bad, Just not spectacular.
For my dinner I had the Enchiladas, one each of cheese, beef, ground beef, and chicken. They were OK, but again, nothing special. 

For a go-with, there were refried beans. Again, nothing special, could have been (and probably were) dumped from a can and heated. Not at all special.
Habaneros Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon
Sorry, but I don't think I'll be back. There is much better Mexican food in Sanford, and it's not to be found here. But, feel free to see for yourself. Just remember, I told you so!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Boston's Fish House

We had a surprisingly good dinner at Boston's Fish House recently. I say surprisingly because, our first time there, I thought there was a bit too much breading and fried food. But this time, we ordered some great items that were not fried and it was all very, very good. Maybe a bit pricey, but still good food. 

We journeyed the whole mile away from home to there on a weekend night with a friend and decided to start off with an appetizer, the Fried Mushrooms. Now, forget about what I said previously about too much breading and too much fried food--these were really very good. They came out of the kitchen nice and hot, and a very good-sized portion. The breading was light and not at all greasy, and lent a nice flavor to the juicy, meaty mushrooms. I liked this a lot. 

For dinner, both Tommy and I ordered the Mahi-Mahi dinner. I had mine done blackened, and Tommy chose the Cajun. He thought the cajun was just a bit too spicy for him, but i thought both were very good. We had them both baked, too, not fried. So this really was good. We each took home about half our fish and enjoyed it another day (as a fish sandwich). Last time I had the beans, I called them "unremarkable," but this time they were a lot better and I really enjoyed them. The coleslaw was good, too. Again we had a nice meal here and will have to return. Yumm!
Boston's Fish House on Urbanspoon 

Olive Garden

We had a coupon and so decided to venture to our nearby Olive Garden one evening recently. It was a good choice and we had a very good meal and a nice dining experience. We were quickly seated and Bryce, our server took great care of us. We came because of the $5 off coupon for their "3 Course Italian Dinner for $12.95" and we left full and with some leftovers. It was a good choice.

There are a lot of great choices on the menu and so we started out with the Grilled Chicken Flatbread for an appetizer. A god portion of tender chicken, mozzarella, roasted red peppers and basil with an alfredo and garlic spread was nicely grilled, warm and yummy. This was good comfort food. The roasted red peppers added a very nice gently heat to the tender and moist chicken. We liked this dish a lot.

The special is basically a choice of soup or salad, an entree, and a dessert. We both chose to begin with a salad. At Olive Garden, the salad is all you can eat, and we ate all we can. It's a nice salad, with mostly romaine but also tomato, olives, red onion, pepperoncini, cheese, and lots of goodness. It's served with their delicious, hot and fresh breadsticks, too. You cannot go wrong with this combination. We enjoyed the salad a lot and it was very nice and fresh, all a salad should be.

For my main course I had the Grilled Chicken Toscano. This is grilled chicken breasts that are brushed with a sweet red wine demiglace. It was served with fresh spinach and a parmesan risottos with tomatoes. Of course I also had it topped with a generous portion of fresh grated parmesan cheese. It was absolutely delicious. The chicken was nice and moist and tender. The sweet red-wine demiglace was not overpowering but gave a nice rich sweetness to the chicken. The parmesan risotto was done very nicely with still just a bit of tooth-bite, not mushy. I liked this dish a lot.

For his entree, Tommy had the Parmesan-Potato Crusted Chicken. It was really very, very good. The chicken was nicely cooked and the crisp parmesan-potato crust was amazingly good. It had a bit of a crunch and the chicken itself was tender and flavorful. It was served on a bed of linguine pasta with a creamy garlic scampi sauce. Now, Tommy is not a huge garlic fan, but he ordered this anyhow. And loved it. The garlic was not at all overpowering but had a nice, sweet, roasted flavor. Again, a great dish.

For my "dessert" I chose the Caffe Mocha. It was all it should be, tasting a lot like hot chocolate made with coffee. It was a nice end to a satisfying meal.

Unlike me, Tommy is not averse to sweet, calorie-laden desserts and so he chose the Chocolate Mousse. It was everything a chocolate mousse should be, very chocolaty and nice and rich and creamy.

We had a very nice time at the Olive Garden for dinner and certainly would return here. Bryce, our server, did a great job of taking care of us and we left full and with some leftovers to enjoy another day--which we did. Yumm!
Olive Garden on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Palm Tree Grille & Bar

We had a very enjoyable lunch on a recent weekday at the Palm Tree Grille & Bar in beautiful Mount Dora. We had a generous gift certificate from a friend and so we were able to go all-out and have a wonderful lunch. 

It was a Monday holiday and downtown Mount Dora was somewhat busy. I'm glad nearly all the shops were open. We were tired after walking around a bit, and so the stop for lunch was very welcome. The restaurant was not very busy and we were quickly seated and waited upon. We each started with a glass of wine and soon decided on some appetizers.

For our first appetizer, we chose the Artichoke Gorgonzola. This was whole artichoke hearts stuffed with gorgonzola cheese, breaded and fried and served in an alfredo sauce with spinach. They were good, quite good. I will say that I could have used a bit more gorgonzola. Though it's a strong cheese, it was very light here, so a bit more would have been welcome. Also, the alfredo sauce needed salt and was a bit thin and watery, I think it should have been thicker which would have made it more rich and creamy. And more salt, definitely. But the artichokes themselves were wonderful, I loved them.

Next we had the Stuffed Mushroom Caps. Large mushroom caps were stuffed with crabmeat, topped with garlic butter and provolone cheese and then baked. They were very good. The cheese was nice and gooey, the mushroom flavor came through, and the chunks of crab in them rather nice. I liked these a lot.

As a prelude to my lunch I had a salad, and it was a delicious salad, chock-full of good things like roasted carrots, garbanzo beans, black olives, mixed romaine and spinach, some red onion, tomato, and home-made croutons. The raspberry vinaigrette  served on the side as requested, was delightful, thick and rich yet light in flavor. 

For his main course, Tommy had one of the day's specials, the Fish Sandwich. It was a nice piece of mahi-mahi that was nicely breaded and fried, served over a nice semi-hard roll with the requisite LTO (lettuce, tomato, and onion). The sandwich was very good, hot and tasty. The fish cooked perfectly, moist, tender, and delicious. The accompanying fries were exceptionally good as well, they were perfect and came out piping hot. This was a great lunch.

For my main dish I chose Penne Alla Vodka. If a restaurant kitchen can make this dish properly, they will get my vote and I'll be a fan. They get my vote and I'm a fan. It was very good. The pasta was a wonderful al-dente... perfectly cooked. The flavors of the peas, tomato and smoky prosciutto blended well with the pink cream sauce. The romano cheese added the perfect sharpness. I could tell that this dish was cooked properly, with a bit of love and care, not just "stuff" thrown together as in some restaurants. This was cooked to perfection. And, lucky for me, the portion was huge and I had some to take home for another meal--which I enjoyed just as much as the first time.

We had a great lunch dining experience here at the Palm Tree Grille & Bar, and I'd certainly recommend them, and certainly return. Nice job!
Palm Tree Grille & Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Lonnie's Fusion Cuisine

On a recent Friday night, we decided to give the recently opened Lonnie's Fusion Cuisine a visit, hoping for a nice dinner. We were not disappointed. The food was decent, the atmosphere pleasant, and the waitstaff good. 

Lonnie's Fusion Cuisine is a rather small but intimate place inside with the supposed look and feel of a cafe in Europe, I'd guess. Inside maybe seats a total of 30 people or so if every spot was taken, but in nice weather, there is also some very pleasant outdoor seating. We were there on a rather cold winter evening so it was definitely not an outdoor kind of night. We entered and were quickly greeted and seated in a spacious booth. In a short time, our waiter appeared and took our beverage order.

For starters we just had to try the Fried Shrimp Torpedo. Actually, there were five torpedos. Shrimp (more likely prawns) were stretched out long, like torpedoes. There were five of them that were nicely breaded and  deep fried, then topped with a bit of sweet chili and oriental sauce. I'd have liked just a bit more sauce, but  my friend Tommy thought it was just right. I guess I like a bit more heat. Nonetheless, they were delicious, cooked perfectly, not greasy, and the bit of sauce gave them a nice flavor without overpowering the flavor of the shrimp. They were delicious and I'd order them again, in a minute! 

We started our meals with a salad. It was a fairly typical salad for a nice restaurant with romaine lettuce, a bit of carrot julienne, some tomato, cucumber, croutons, and a bit of cheese. I had the balsamic vinaigrette dressing. It was a good salad, all that a salad should be and not over-dressed either, a pet peeve of mine. It was light, fresh, cool, and delicious.

For my main course I ordered the Champagne Chicken and Mushrooms. It was a great choice as it turned out.It was pan seared medallions of chicken that were nice and moist and tender. They were served over some smashed garlic potatoes (but not too heavy on the garlic, thankfully) with a mushroom champagne sauce that was velvety in texture, and rich  and flavorful. I really liked this dish. The chicken was oh so tender and juicy. The poatoes were creamy without being pasty. And the champagne mushroom sauce was a real delight. It was served with a choice of a side and i chose the Sauteed Garlic Green Beans. I'll say that the portion of beans was a bit meager, but they were delicious and tender, cooked well but not overdone. This was a real hit with me and I managed to eat every last bit of it.

For his main course, my friend Tommy had the New York Strip steak. It was a 12 oz. Angus New York strip steak, cooked perfectly to the requested medium rare, iron seared (whatever that really means) served over smashed potatoes and covered with a mushroom demi glaze sauce. The steak had a very nice flavor though it was just a bit chewy. Not tough, but just not butter-tender either. Still, it was flavorful and delicious as were the potatoes and the demi glaze. For a side he had the Roasted Stuffed Tomato and it was really good, a tomato that was topped with some bread crumbs and cheese and roasted. It came out piping hot but was oh so delicious and the lightness and acid of the tomato added a nice balance to the heavy richness of the demi glaze.

My only complaint overall is the price of the wine. It is not cheap here. I had the house Cabernet Sauvignon and it was $9 a glass which, in my estimation, is just a bit steep. If I was to consider coming back, that is one item that might make me think twice. Or I'd go again with a resolve to just have a soft drink--and I like a glass of wine with my meal.

Our service was pretty good. I'd guess that our server was rather new and didn't know all the answers to our questions, but he did find out when asked. Also, it appeared that the owner maybe or at least the head chef was in evidence, i noticed him taking care of things, talking to guests, etc. He even asked us how our food was. That's always nice to see. 

So my first impression of Lonnie's Fusion Cuisine is a favorable one. I see that they have some fairly decent priced lunch items, and I'm sure I'll return one day with a few coworkers and give it a try at lunch time. First impression was quite favorable, so I'd return again, though maybe not when in a wine mood. Then have only been open a few months, but I'd say they are on the right track. Give them a try, I recommend it.
Lonnie's Fusion Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


We headed to the newly opened (less than a month) BurgerFi in Lake Mary on the day before New Year's. I was hoping for a "Five Guys" type of burger experience. I really wanted to like BurgerFi and hoped for a mouthwatering, juicy burger. Though their web site says that BurgerFi is "changing the way we think of the burger," and that they are "guaranteed fresh, juicy, and delicious," I was, unfortunately, not impressed by the burger. For a place that has "burger" in its name, the best thing I had were the French Fries. A regular size order of fries was almost too much for the two of us to eat. They were indeed fresh, hot, and delicious. And, at $2.77, they were quite a bargain as well.

But then we come to the burger. I was not all that hungry so I ordered a single cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, mayo, and mustard. It cost $4.97 which seemed a bit rich. The bun itself was tasty and delicious. The lettuce and tomato were fresh and crisp. But bun has the BurgerFi name seemingly branded on the bun top, and the bun was toasted. But the burger that was in it was not juicy, it was rather dry and only warm. On top of that, the bun was slightly cool to the touch. Now I'd expect that maybe of the top bun because there was lettuce and tomato under it, but the bottom bun too?  I can't quite figure it out. My guess is that the buns were pre-toasted and that it was allowed to cool down to room temperature. But even the burger was not overly hot. The order could not have sit very long because it was as scant five minutes from the time we ordered until we got our order and the fries were very hot. So I was a bit disappointed in this burger. I've had equally good burgers at McDonald's, I'm afraid, much more juicy and moist. Now, will I give them a second try? Yes, I will. As I mentioned, they've been open less than a month.

Another observation. There did not really seem to be anyone in charge. There were employees from the grill (I think) hanging around the front counter. Later there was an older gentleman in the front--he appeared to be training a cashier. There was a very friendly gentleman who was keeping tables clear and the dining room clean--he was plenty friendly. I believe that when you have a fast food operation that depends on a bunch of young people, you really need evident and direct leadership, making sure they are all busy and not just "hanging around." But, as I said, it's new, they're just learning. I'll give them a month or two more to adjust and then try it again. For now I'm voting "don't like" because if you have "burger" in your name, then the burger should shine--mind didn't.  But I suggest you give them a try and see what you think. Let me know! And I reserved the right to change my vote after a future visit. I wish them well and hope they improve. We could use a good burger joint in Lake Mary.
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