100+ restaurants participating in Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month 2018

Taking a trip to Orlando soon? Something delicious is cooking in “The Theme Park Capital of the World”.

Prepare to enjoy some serious dining deals for Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month. 100+ restaurant will be offering three course prix-fixe meals for $35 per person. The restaurant month is sponsored by American Express and will run from Friday, August 24th to Sunday, September 30th.

It’s a great way to try restaurants that you’ve been wanting to experience. New additions for 2018 include first-time vegan options as well as gluten-free and vegetarian options.

$1 from every meal will be donated to a local charities Best Buddies and Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida.

According to Visit Orlando, “Proceeds from Magical Dining Month will help Best Buddies expand its programs into Orange County middle schools with high populations of students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This mentorship program helps improve students’ quality of life and foster an inclusive middle school culture, by erasing the barrier that typically separates students with disabilities”.

Also: “Proceeds from Magical Dining Month will help the Down Syndrome Association expand its emergency and crisis fund, pay for potential medical needs not covered by insurance, and fund therapy scholarship programs.”

Some notable restaurants on the list include Morimoto Asia, Wine Bar George, K Restaurant, Pharmacy Orlando, Seito Sushi Baldin Park, and more. You’ll find everything from local hotposts to chains and even some steakhouses and upper-tier restaurants on the list.

Check out www.orlandomagicaldining.com for the full details, menus, and more.

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Guide: Where to eat and drink in Miami Beach

Miami Beach is a classic tourist attraction. Hotels are all along the strip with bars and restaurants just waiting for customers. It’s a little hard to navigate as well. Most bars are open late and many are open until 5AM with nightclubs filling in the party scene.

Here are some recommendations on where to go in South Beach when you’re there.

Uber Pool and Lyft will easily transport you around this area for less than $5 in most cases so avoid attempting to park if possible.

LOCO FOR TACOS🌮❤️🎉 – droppin’ a lil #flashback here with these three beautiful and flavorful tacos from @bodegasobe 🤤🙌🏼 definitely craving ‘em rn😩 – from left to right is the avocado with refried black beans + mushrooms + lettuce + cotija cheese + red chili crema 🔹 the guajillo braised short rib with cotija cheese + charred onions + cilantro + potato sticks aaand salsa rosada 🔹the grilled mahi with charred pineapple + pickled red onion aand a chipotle-cotija dressin’ + a side of this heavenly thicc guacamole😲👅💦 – so so goood i can still taste it while writing this🤪 happyy wednesdayy✨ . . . . #love #happy #food #foodie #eats #sobe #bodega #southbeach #foodiesofmiami #miami #taco #tacos

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Bodega Taqueria y Tequila: This place is unassuming from the outside, but behind the front and through a few doors is a beautiful bar with libations and food as well as music spinning until 5AM. The best part about this place is their daily happy hour from 6PM to 8PM which features loaded tacos for $2 and $6 cocktails as well as $4 chips and salsa / $5 mezcal and tequila shots. There is a $35 minimum for card so make sure you bring cash or use the ATM there if you don’t mind paying a fee. These were some of the best tacos I have enjoyed in a long time. The ribeye and mahi mahi tacos were excellent. I enjoyed a Maduro Old Fashioned. I highly recommend this spot. Note: 18% Gratuity and 7% Sales Tax will automatically be added to your bill. 1220 16th Street, Miami Beach, FL 33139 (305) 704-2145 http://www.bodegasouthbeach.com/

Cocktailbar #miami #gt

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Employees Only: Quality craft cocktails await at this speakeasy hidden behind a psychic / tarot card room. The best seats are at the bar in my opinion just because its beautiful, but service was also great tableside. Drinks are fairly priced for Miami Beach and they pack a punch. The Hurricane was enjoyable. 1030 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33139 (786) 264-3945 http://employeesonlymiami.com

Sweet Liberty Drinks & Supply Company: You’ll find this beautiful neon lit bar in Collins Park area. The best time to go is during happy hour from 4PM to 7PM where you can enjoy a fantastic Classic Daquiri for $5 as I did or even Tommy’s Margarita for $8. You’ll easily spend $20 a drink in the off hours which is pretty average for Miami. 237 20th Street Suite B, Miami Beach, FL 33139 (305) 763-8217 http://mysweetliberty.com/

Evening cocktails in the winter #brokenshakermiami

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The Broken Shaker: Socialites can enjoy a tiki bar with craft cocktails at The Broken Shaker at Freehand Hotel. There is plenty of people mingling and on dates so it may not be the best bar for someone flying solo. The drinks here are strong, inventive, and flavorful. It might be one of the best bars I have been to and I would go with a crowd or some friends for sure. Expect to spend $15-$20 on a drink. Happy Hour is only for hotel guests as is the pool area. 2727 Indian Creek Drive, Miami Beach, FL 33140 (305) 531-2727 http://freehandhotels.com/miami/broken-shaker/

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Sushi Fredag vid stranden är inte och leka med.. #90bitar #sushi #gains

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Moshi Moshi: If you want a reasonably priced Japanese restaurant in South Beach, Moshi Moshi will fit the bill. It’s located right next to Española Way. They deliver and are open-late. Lunch specials here are under $8 which is a steal for South Beach. I enjoyed a takoyaki (octopus balls) during my visit and it was superb as well as Crunchy Krab Ceviche which wasn’t ceviche at all but a great assortment of imitation Krab, crunchies, avocados, eel sauce, and spicy mayo. Sushi rolls start at $5 and many are under $10. 1448 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33139 (305) 531-4520

Rosseta Bakery: This local bakery in Miami has excellent Italian breads and pastries as well as a beautiful interior and is a great place to get work done and wake up in the morning with a coffee after a long night of drinking and partying in Miami Beach. You must try the prosciutto croissant sandwich. It is life-changing. The staff is incredibly friendly and they were playing Destiny’s Child and Beyonce songs at 7AM. I can get behind that. 929 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33139 (786) 216-7795 http://www.rosettabakery.com

Guide: 10 Places to Eat and Drink in Seminole Heights

Did you hear that Tampa is now ranked one of the most hipster cities in the United States?

If we’re talking hipsters, Seminole Heights has taken the mantle from Ybor City in the past few years as restaurants, bars, breweries, and cafes have popped up all over this small town that supports local busines.

Here are 10 places to eat and drink in Seminole Heights when you visit:

1. Brew Bus Brewing / Florida Ave. Brewing: Brew Bus has quickly grown to be one of the most successful businesses in the Seminole Heights neighborhood. The owners have Exectuive Chef Max Sherard making gourmet food in the kitchen and plenty of beers rolling out of the brewery all the time. They also recently added craft cocktails to the menu. You can jump on the Brew Bus here and ride all around town to some of Seminole Heights less parking friendly businesses. It’s a good hub to the neighborhood. 4101 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, FL 33603 (813) 990-7310  

2. Angry Chair Brewing Co.: One of the most popular local breweries in town. Parking is a conondrum, but you did jump on the Brew Bus like I told you above right? Angry Chair has craft beer fans lining up hours before release parties and most people in town will tell you it has grown to be one of their favorite local breweries. 6401 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, FL 33604 (813) 238-1122 

Beeehs heeeere #tomorrow at noon 😂 #craftbeer #beer #tampa

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3. Chop Chop Shop: No one can deny that what is cooking in this kitchen is delicious. The cuisine is a mixture of Japanese and Korean inspiration and whatever the chef is cooking up in the kitchen. No complaints from hungry fans who happily call in orders and show up to eat whenever they get a chance. 6605 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, FL 33604 (813) 770-7306 

4. The Independent Bar & Cafe: I hope you’re noticing a theme that Seminole Heights is a bit of a watering hole. The Independen has long been a local stronghold in the neighborhood where you’ll see local business owners and residents grabbing a beer and having a blast. 5016 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, FL 33603 (813) 341-4883 

5. The Refinery: Always give credit where credit is due. The Refinery was one of the first restaurants to take a risk inside Seminole Heights and helped to form the foundation of the restaurants all over Florida Avenue now. It’s unfortunate that the original location is now closed as I was a fan, but you can find them a few blocks away now in the former Fodder & Shine spot. The burger is my go-to. 5910 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, FL 33604 (813) 234-3710 

6. Revolution Ice Cream: After making a name for themselves in Brandon, Revolution Ice Cream brought their delicious desserts to Seminole Heights and saved many people a trip on I-4 or I-75 and that’s truly a miracle. Their ice cream incorporates many local businesses into their flavors and they are constantly changing and evolving. 6701 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, FL 33604 (813) 513-5053 

7. Rooster & The Till: If you want a truly gourmet experience, Rooster & The Till is arguably one of the best restaurants in Tampa offering that. Be prepared to spend some money, but you’ll want lick your plate as you taste their creations. 6500 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, FL 33604 (813) 374-8940 

8. Lowry Parcade: We nerds needed a spot to join together and Lowry Parade has provided done just that. Where else can you catch a rock band playing Mega Man on a speedrun, sip a local craft beer, and hit an arcade or pinball machine. I hope Lowry Parcade grows and expands so they can increase their selection and add some more fighting games and retro throwbacks, that’s my dream personally. 1213 W Waters Ave, Tampa, FL 33604  (813) 915-9180

9. The Mermaid Tavern: This dive bar is much more of the core, original feeling that Seminole Heights was founded on. This is a great spot to catch up with friends or unwind. DJs spinning regularly. 6719 N. Nebraska Ave., Tampa, FL 33604 (813) 238-5618 

merm #tampa #seminoleheights #mermaid #tavern

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10. Spaddy’s Coffee Co.: Every neighborhood needs local coffee and Tampa wouldn’t be a hipster town without our coffee scene. Spaddy serves local roasts from Zeal Coffee Roasters and offers a wide menu of choices. His truck is open early and has really grown into the neighborhood. One of the great things about Seminole Heights is the local feel of it and Spaddy embodies that feeling all the way. 5206 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, FL 33603 (954) 829-2111 

☕️🙋🏼‍♀️

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DEAL ALERT: Norwegian Airlines offering direct flights from Tampa to London

Have you always dreamt of visting Europe? How about visiting the Tower of London or Big Ben?

Norwegian Airlines could make that a reality with their NEW direct flights on Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner jets from Tampa to London that begins service on October 31st, 2018. Norwegian is the world’s sixth largest low-cost airline and carried around 33 million passengers in 2017.

Chief Commerical Officer Thomas Ramdahl shares, “We are excited to introduce another U.S. destination to our network. Tampa Bay will be a very popular destination amongst European traveler. Similarly, Europe is in high demand among Tampa Bay and Florida resident. With our growing commitment to Florida, we’re also increasing our Fort Lauderdale and Orlando to London services for the winter season due to the great demand.”

Direct flights are now available and one-way airfares go for as low as $214. You could travel roundtrip for less than $500 with tax from Tampa. Visit London has a guide for travelers with what’s happening month by month.

Book now: http://www.norwegian.com/us/

Here are some London-related travel articles for extended reading:

Savor Sarasota Restaurant Week features over 100 restaurants June 1st-June 14th

Savor Sarasota restaurant week will celebrate their 13th year with over 100 participants from June 1st to June 14th of 2018. The annual restaurant week that actually spans two weeks features multi-course pre-fixe meals for $16 at lunch and $32 at dinner.

Siesta Key, Florida

Sarasota has the highest concentration of Zagat®-rated restaurants in Florida. Siesta Key in Sarasota was named the top beach in America in 2017 by TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Awards™ and by Dr. Beach.

The restaurant week is a great way to see what Sarasota has to offer and there are many new places popping up all over town.

New restaurants include: Smoked Meats; Café Epicure, Chaz 51, Chef Rolf’s New Florida Kitchen, Crab & Fin, Element – Modern Mediterranean Grill, El Greco Mediterranean Café, Evie’s Tavern on Main Street, EVOQ Restaurant, Farlow’s on the Water, Half Shell Seafood House, Howards Restaurant, Italian Tradition Restaurant & Martini Bar, Paradise Grill, PizzaSRQ, Prague, Rodizio Grill, Taverna Grill, The Bodhi Tree Café, The Coolinary, The Fountain Kitchen & Wine Bar, The Italian Grill, Tokaj and Two Senoritas.

Returning restaurants feature: 62 Bistrot, Alpine Steakhouse, Andrea’s Restaurant, Angelo’s, Apollonia Grill, Barnacle Bill’s Seafood, Beulah Restaurant, Bijou Café, Blu Island Bistro, Blue Rooster, BRIO Tuscan Grill, Café Baci,Café BarBossa, Café L’Europe, Café Gabbiano, Café Venice Restaurant & Wine Bar, Captain Brian’s Seafood Market Restaurant ,The Capital Grille, Carmel Café & Wine Bar, CasAntica, C’est La Vie University Park-Lakewood Ranch, Chart House, Chianti Ristorante Italiano, Crow’s Nest; Currents, Duval’s, Fresh.Local.Seafood, Euphemia Haye Restaurant, Fins @ Sharky’s, H2O Bistro, Harry’s Continental Kitchens, Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse, Jack Dusty; La Scarpetta, Libby’s Café & Bar, Lila, Lolita Tartine, Louies Modern, Mattison’s City Grille, Mattison’s Forty-One, Melange, The Melting Pot,  Michael’s On East, Miguel’s, Mona Lisa Restaurant, Mozaic, Muse at the Ringling, Ophelia’s on the Bay, Paris Bistrot, Red Clasico Sarasota, Roessler’s Restaurant, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Salute!, Sardinia Restaurant, Season’s 52, Selva Grill, Shore, Sophie’s at Saks Fifth Avenue, Siesta Key Oyster Bar, Stonewood Grill and Tavern, Table Creekside, The Rosemary, The Starlite Room, Tommy Bahama and Tsunami Sushi & Hibachi Grill.

Get all the details and menus at: http://www.savorsarasota.com

Savor Sarasota is sponsored by Sarasota Magazine, Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport and OpenTable.

Carlos Eats Orlando Guide – Where to Eat, Drink, and Play

So you’ve made it to Orlando, Florida? Home of big household names such as Disney and Universal Studios. Orlando has a pretty great and growing food scene as well as a growing craft beer market. Here are my recommendations on where to go when in the town of Mickey Mouse.

Disney Springs

  • Eat
    • Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’: Three words – Buttermilk Fried Chicken. It is not cheap, but it is delicious. Splurge here and you will not regret it. The sides are great as well. If you love moonshine the restaurant also has a large list of them available for sampling and enjoying.
    • Morimoto Asia: No expense was spared in the creation of this restaurant. It is beautiful inside and out. The menu changes pretty regularly, but you really can’t go wrong with Morimoto’s Signature Peking Duck. The cocktail selection is also great and incorporates some interesting mixtures from soft drinks in Japan as well tea cocktails. Come ready to spend money and enjoy.
  • Drink
    • Wine Bar George: Master Sommelier George Miliotes opened his first wine bar at Disney Springs. It features over 135 wines by the glass, bottle, and ounce. The servers are just as passionate about wine as George himself. The food selection is great and the wine selection is vast with many countries, styles, and price points represented, some that George personally prefers that might be difficult to find elsewhere. I recommend coming here for a glass or two or three.
    • STK: The rooftop bar at STK is what lands it on this list. There is this tower with a fire pit inside that is just really the perfect backdrop to sip a glass of wine and to look over Disney Springs from the sunset into the evening.

Downtown Orlando

  • Drink
    • Aku Aku: Sweet little tiki dive in Downtown Orlando. Prices are pretty fair even if the menu is a little limited, don’t be afraid to ask the bartenders to make you a cocktail and they will try their best accommodate. It does get pretty busy so get there early if you want a seat or come earlier in the week.
    • The Woods: This has been one of my choice spots to go drink for some years. Many of the bartenders are affiliated with the bartender’s guild in Tampa and the drinks here are always made well and are nice and strong. They have a large liquor selection and their craft beer list isn’t half bad either.

Dr. Phillips

  • Drink
    • Pharmacy: I’m a fan of speakeasy concepts. This one eluded me for nearly 30 minutes on my first visit while I searched for the front door. Once you find your way inside (hint there is a button) you will be impressed with the drink selection and food. Pharmacy is really a great spot and probably one of the best speakeasy concepts I have seen in Florida. 8060 Via Dellagio Way, Orlando, FL 32819. (407) 985-2972. http://thepharmacyorlando.com/

East Orlando

  • Eat
    • Izziban Sushi & Korean BBQ: People like to talk smack about Izziban, but if you ask me Izziban has one of the best deals I have ever seen. All you can eat Korean BBQ, appetizers, and sushi for under $22. I absolutely love sliced pork belly so this is a goldmine for me. Most Korean restaurants in Florida will charge you over $20 for one entry. The tip is included for AYCE but the service is almost always great. This is a quality business and I always have to stop by here when I’m in town. I just wish they would hurry up and open one up in my hometown in Tampa. 5310 E Colonial Dr, Orlando, FL 32807. (407) 270-8811. http://izzibanrestaurant.com/

International Drive

  • Eat
    • Boi Brazil Churrascaria: I wandered into one here one day on a trip to Orlando and was not disappointed with the meat cuts or price. Come hungry because the meat just keeps coming and coming at you. 5668 International Dr, Orlando, FL 32819. (407) 354-0260. http://www.boibrazil.com/
    • Cafe Tu Tu Tango: This spot is filled with art and culture – even if its a touristy spot it is good and very close to several hotels on I-Drive if you’re staying around this area.
  • Do
    • Player 1 Video Game Bar: If you want a blast to the past take a visit to this video game arcade bar. They have dozens of old school arcade machines as well as an extensive beer list. Quite a few emulator consoles will also let you take your pick of video games long past their time including classic SEGA and Nintendo games.  8562 Palm Pkwy, Orlando, FL 32836. (407) 504-7521. https://player1orlando.com/

Oak Ridge

  • Do
    • KTV Karaoke Orlando: I am a fan of private karaoke rooms. This korean bar and karaoke facility (called a noraebang) has hundreds of songs available to sing and rooms available to rent for an hourly fee. The service has been attentive I have made there. Try to come in a larger group if you want to save money because the rates aren’t that cheap. 7130 S. Orange Blossom Trail #200 Orlando, Fl 32809. http://www.ktvorlando.com/
    • Millenia Mall: This is a pretty huge upscale mall in Orlando and was one of the top places you could find designer brands until Disney Springs stepped up their shops. You’ll find all your big name brands and also quite a number of places to eat around here. If you want to get some shopping done indoors and avoid the weather outside, its a good pick. 4200 Conroy Rd, Orlando, FL 32839. http://www.mallatmillenia.com/

Winter Park

  • Eat
    • Domu: Domu has a very contemporary feel to it and delivers a solid ramen menu with prices that easily destroy any business in my hometown of Tampa. The other must-try thing on this menu is the KFC “Korean Fried Chicken” which is excellent. It isn’t traditional, but it is delicious. East End Market, 3201 Corrine Dr Suite 100, Orlando, FL 32803. (407) 960-1228. http://www.domufl.com/
    • Foxtail Coffee Co.: My favorite coffee shop in Orlando. This shop is beautiful and has a coffee is roasted on-site. They also have plenty of pastries, food, beer, and wine. The shop is filled with seats and plugs for device charging. The Wi-Fi here is great too. 1286 N Orange Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789. (407) 951-7931. https://www.foxtailcoffee.com/
    • Gideon’s Bakehouse: This small bakery inside East End Market is almost worth a drive to Orlando by itself. They have some of the most delicious cookies I have ever tried. You must make an effort to come here, but beware that they sometimes are sold out of their supply completely. http://www.gideonsbakehouse.com/
    • Krungthep Tea Time: One of those places easily made famous across I-4 thanks to Instagram. Krungthep has a famous pink drink which is a Thai street drink. I hear their sandwiches are also delicious, but haven’t had a chance to try them myself yet. Don’t forget to get a photo on their couch. 1051 W Fairbanks Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789. (407) 733-3561. http://www.krungthepteatime.com/
  • Do
    • East End Market: One of the first food halls in Florida. East End Market was once a church and now is a facility that hosts a variety of vendors from various concepts – most of them involving food. There is even a bar there if you want to have a drink and Domu is located right next door.

West Orlando

  • Eat
    • Inay’s Kitchen Filipino Cuisine: Quality Filipino food is hard to come by, but Inay’s delivers that homemade touch and the food is great. Prices are reasonable too. They also have karaoke for those of you into that. 1097 S Clarke Rd, Ocoee, FL 34761. (407) 601-2126.
    • Junior Colombian Burger: This guide is mostly free from chains, but Orlando is one of the only places in the world with a Junior Colombian Burger and I personally love it. It’s true that their beef is frozen, but the burgers are the perfect composition of flavors and I love their sauces (the pineapple sauce is amazing) and the potato chips on top in genius. I feel like this concept would be so successful in my hometown – I always get a craving for it when I’m in Orlando and end up making a trip. They have a few locations around Orlando – I feel like this one is really convenient for people traveling on I-4. Best thing is they are open until at least 3AM everyday. 5389 S Kirkman Rd, Orlando, FL 32819. (407) 355-3506. http://www.juniorcb.com

Surrounding cities:

Kissimmee

  • Eat
    • Kissimmee Bakery & Latin Food: Puerto Rico meets El Salvador at this restaurant which has amazing pupusas. Best you might find outside of San Francisco and California. We always try and grab a bag to take home when we visit family in Orlando.

Food Trucks:

  • Korean BBQ Taco Box: This food truck sells excellent Korean food and is regularly out on the road around Orlando. They have traditional as well as fusion food. I highly recommend Korean BBQ Taco Box at least once on a visit to Orlando. I love their food. They post their schedule on Facebook and Twitter, but you might want to give them a call too if you want to order ahead. (407) 453-2250. http://www.facebook.com/KBBQBox/

Nightmare: Crowne Plaza Charleston Airport Conv. Ctr. Hotel

During Hurricane Irma my family and I voluntarily evacuated from Florida when we saw that Irma could arrive as a Category 3 or 4 hurricane in our hometown and be devastating. We decided to head to South Carolina, thinking it would be far away enough from the storm since Irma was turning northwest and was about 800 miles from our home.

Searching online we found Crowne Plaza Charleston Airport Convention Center hotel. Holding a 4.5 rating online on major websites – we decided why not and booked a stay at $135 a night for 3 days. The hotel was inland from Charleston – far enough not to seriously flood from any serious storm surges.

We experienced a nightmare stay there.

Everything started off alright when we arrived. Our first hiccup was when we sat at the bar after arriving and the bartender there was clearly ready to go home and waiting for someone to cover his shift.

He was irritable and unfriendly. He claimed his home was in a flood zone and he wanted to get some things done there. I definitely understand that, but why is that the customers problem? Some other customers showed up at the hotel and he was completely friendly to them, which was surprising.

The next day was a mostly normal day until we came home to our hotel room and found a ROACH inside our room.


Clearly the room had been sprayed with some kind of poison for bugs because the roach was upside down, but it was still moving and it moved when we entered the room.

I have NEVER seen a roach in a hotel room before. It was disgusting. I reached out to the hotel’s management and they told me something would be done the next day within 24 hours, but we never heard from the manager and nothing was done.

The next day at the hotel we found notices put up that the service staff was going to be limited because of Hurricane Irma’s outer bands. Some staff had left to flee the tropical storm winds and rain because they live in flood zones. Fair enough –  some prior notice would have been nice though.

There was no room service during our entire stay at the hotel even when the staff was actually there.

Due to the storm, changes were made to the restaurant. The hotel said they would offer buffet service at prices ranging from $10-$18 per person to make up for the staff shortages.


Then we lost power.

This was when we found out the hotel had no real generator. Only the lobby and hotel room keycards were on the generator. There was no Wi-Fi and no electricity to any of the rooms.

Most of the restaurants closed around us because of the storm and because of the electricity. People in South Carolina seemed spooked by Irma’s tropical storm winds and rain because they were hit by Hurricane Matthew.

However, in reality only flood zones were impacted and the winds were not beyond 25mph with some occasional gusts.

The bartender assured us not to worry because they would have sandwiches for the guests now that the restaurant had no power. Then we found out they wanted to charge $10 per person to make a sandwich with 2 sides and you had to make it yourself.


To circle back: the hotel had no electricity, no Wi-Fi, no room service, no restaurant service, and STILL wanted to charge guests for cold cuts and bread $10 per person?! It’s price gouging in my book and I made sure to alert the Attorney General of how a hotel treats people during a storm.

We literally had to shower and pee in the dark.

Most of the guests at the Crowne Plaza were from Florida, all seeking shelter from Hurricane Irma. It would been a kind gesture to maybe give guests a discount or some kind of food to get through the storm, but the hotel did not do that.

As soon as the hotel electricity received power over 9 hours after the power failed, my family and I prepared to shower, pack our bags, and get out of there as quickly as possible.

When we were checking out from the hotel, they didn’t give us a receipt and apparently they had no printer. We paid almost $500 and were frankly treated like trash.

Hotels are about hospitality. The hospitality industry is all about making experiences. No doubt the hotel was short staffed because of the storm, but they could have been more hospitable to their guests. They treated people with contempt and tried to profit off people’s misery.

What happened to Southern Hospitality?

I will never stay at a Crowne Plaza hotel ever again and I don’t suggest that you do either.

I’a Poke serves delicious eats (San Francisco)

Poke (poh-keh) has taken America by storm over the last few years. Poke by definition is a raw-fish salad.

The Food of Paradise: Exploring Hawaii’s Culinary Heritage states that poke first became popular in the 1970s in Hawaii. The trend spread to the U.S.A. in 2012 and at some point began appearing everywhere. Many places just started chopping up fish and selling “poke” to increase sales with no real focus on the history.

Much like “Kobe beef”, “poke” has become a strong sales buzzword without much meaning at many restaurants. Some restaurants actually stay true to the origins of the dish though and use attention to how the fish is prepared and served. Once you taste real poke, the knock-offs just aren’t good enough.

The sushi burrito seems to have come about in 2011 when Sushiritto was founded in San Francisco by Peter Yen. Sushi burritos are essentially a closed sushi handroll packed with tons of rice and ingredients. I tried Sushiritto last December in San Francisco and found the dishes to be rather dry and not quite what I expected and was quite disappointing.

I ended up at I’a Poke by accident this past July when I was looking for a sushi restaurant for lunch and found that most restaurants in SF close at 2PM. After trekking on the BART to the Castro to try Eiji, I ended up going to I’a Poke instead and was glad I did!

The restaurant takes Hawaiian-inspired poke and combines it to offer both sushi burritos and poke bowls. Large bowls and Burritos are allowed to have unlimited toppings, which rocks.

iapoke4.jpg

I’a Poke allows you to build your own poke bowls or sushi burritos and also sells pre-arranged meals as well. The freedom to choose toppings was expansive and a great deal. I wasn’t ready for how delicious the food was going to taste.

iapoke3

iapoke2

I’a Poke opened my taste buds to how amazing poke and sushi burritos can taste. There wasn’t any topping that did not pack full flavors. The fish was insanely good. I had a salmon burrito with spicy mayo, surimi crab meat, tamago (Japanese egg), sun dried tomato guacamole, masago, furikake, and it was incredible!

It absolutely blew Sushiritto away.

Never have I tasted better ingredients for a sushi burrito and the serving portion was fair.

iapoke1

In addition, the attendants who made the sushi burrito were incredibly hospitable and the overall place brought me very good vibes.

Cheers to all the poke lovers 🍻

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Watching the people around me eat their poke bowls stuffed with ingredients, it was clear I need to return one day for a bowl. Still, the sushi burrito itself impressed me enough to also recommend the poke bowl (the ingredients are the same after all).

I would recommend I’a Poke to anyone in San Francisco looking for an amazing sushi burrito or poke bowl. Here’s hoping that I quickly am able to return to San Francisco and enjoy I’a Poke again.

iapoke6.jpg

Restaurant name: I’a Poke

Neighborhood: Castro

Cuisine: Poke, Sushi Burrito

Address: 314 Church Street San Francisco, California

Menu: http://www.iapoke.com/menu

Website: http://www.iapoke.com/

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/iapokesf/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/iapoke

7th Annual Food & Wine Weekends Launch Party

Last week I visited The Waldorf Astoria Orlando for a private media launch party to the 7th Annual Food & Wine Weekends.

Waldorf Astoria Orlando and Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek offer a special menu every year for 9 weekends during the Epcot® International Food and Wine Festival. This year runs from September 8th to November 12th.  The prix fixe menus are priced from around $40-$60 and include 4 courses of eats.

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Things we tried include braised short ribs, risotto, carved beef tenderloins, chocolates, macarons, cocktail creations, sushi rolls, poke bowls, and more.

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It would be impossible to highlight all the food in a blog post, but let me say that my favorite thing was Chimay Braised Beef Short Rib with Risotto, Porcinis, Melted Leeks, Butter Squash, and Horseradish Gremolata.

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The short ribs came off the bone in a way that made my mouth drop and each bite was insane. This will be part of The Taste of La Luce at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek.

The sushi rolls from Zeta Asia at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek were also delicious and hard not to keep eating. Guests were able to meet hotel staff and chefs who make it all happen. The staff is diverse and clearly a melting pot that is helping to land their restaurants on the top of some local lists in Orlando.

We also tried their private label Pinot Noir – Leatitia which is a Bonnet Creek Reserve from Arroyo Grande, California. It was incredible and I found myself going back for seconds, thirds, and more. You must try it if you visit these hotels.

The hotels are also in the process of making their own craft beer and have already created their own whiskey and tequila in collaboration with major national brands like Patron and Knob Creek. This attention to detail definitely shows an sharp focus on the customer experience that exemplifies the goals of hospitality.

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They showed us a signature Bulls & Bear’s Spicy Margarita during our visit made with Patrón Barrel Select Añejo Tequila, Green Chartreuse, St. Germaine, Organic Agave, Lime Juice, Gracias A Dios Mezcal, Avocado, and Egg White.

For a full list of the planned events for Food & Wine Weekends and to see full menus visit them online at: http://www.waldorfastoriaorlando.com/food-wine/

Wyndham Clearwater Beach Grand Opening – 1/21

Wyndham Clearwater Beach will have their Grand Opening event this Saturday, January 21st, 2017 from 4PM to 11PM with plenty of entertainment for the public to enjoy. The new hotel resort is located at 100 Coronado Drive, Clearwater Beach 33767.

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Book a room at wyndhamgrandclearwater.com.

Schedule:

4PM – Food trucks open and entertainment begins
6PM – Live entertainment on both stages
8:30PM – Laser Show
9PM – Fireworks Show
9:30PM – Headliner on American Stage

Entertainment: