Wine Bar George now open at Disney Springs (Orlando)

Full disclosure: I was invited to Wine Bar George for a complimentary tasting this week to try their new menu. My history with George Miliotes dates back a few years and is outlined in this article. All opinions stated are my own and do not represent Wine Bar George or any other group.

Wine Bar George is now open at Disney Springs in Orlando.

I’ve been following George Miliotes for years when he was consulting with the Capital Grille for their Generous Pour event. His new 200 seat, 6,000-square-foot restaurant features over 130 wines by the glass, bottle, and ounce.

Good Wednesday 🍷 #tasting #orlando #disneysprings #carloseats #orlandofood

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George Miliotes is one of only 128 Master Sommeliers in the United States of America. It is a mastery that few in the world hold. Wine Bar George is also the only Master Sommelier-led bar in Florida. The bar is open daily from 11AM to 2AM.

George has history with Disney going back to the opening of California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort and managed the venue from 1995 to 2002. He created their award winning wine-list and was one of the first to make a “100 wines by the glass list” in the United States.

The food menu features seasonal items with everything made in-house. I stopped by today for a tasting of the menu and tried some of their selection as well as two featured wines with Miliotes hosting us.

We enjoyed a cheese and meat board to begin the tasting.

Wine Bar George offers a few choices here depending on party-size that range from $24-$54. Definitely a great shareable dish that is expected in a concept like this. I enjoyed their cheese selections and their cuts of meat. The chutney and mustard were also excellent.

The cheese and meat board was served with a German Dry Riesling from Selbach-Oster in Mosel, Germany. The Riesling went down great and would easily be a wine that I could sip all day. Selbach-Oster is ranked among the Top 100 wineries in Germany.

The flavor was certainly not your average Riesling and I would recommend giving this one a taste. A 6 oz. pour is $8 and a bottle is $32 at the bar.

All the cocktails have wine spirit infusions and the New York Sour featured a 12-year aged bourbon with a wine floater. Director of Beverage, Robyn Cohen, spearheaded the menu in collaboration with George Miliotes.

The other wine we tried was the Yeringberg 2013 Bordeaux-style Red from Victoria, Australia’s Yarra Valley. This was an excellent and smooth red that was easy to drink and went along well with the other menu items on the tasting list. This is a higher end wine that would normally go for around $90 a bottle at retail. They recently acquired this wine so it is not yet listed on the menu, but available.

The Mac + Cheese balls were excellent. Sometimes you’ll find that the crust will get into the inside of these creations and make a gritty texture, but that wasn’t the case at all with this dish. The Mac + Cheese was completely creamy and delicious. Great Mac + Cheese can be hard to come by.

The grilled octopus was one of the best dishes I enjoyed during the tasting. The octopus had a very ceviche-like quality to it. I would order this dish in the future. It wasn’t chewy at all. I would probably also get this dish in the future if I went for the sangria on the menu.

The chicken skewers were a top choice during the tasting at Wine Bar George. It almost reminded me of Japanese Fried Chicken or Karaage, but with different flavor profiles. This dish was truly enjoyable. Make sure to squeeze the lime on top – it really does make a difference here.

It wouldn’t be a tasting without dessert and we enjoyed a key lime dessert as well as an olive oil cake. I liked the key lime, but the olive oil cake was incredible and stood out to me among the two. I would order this again and again and highly recommend it.

I stopped at the top floor before I left to look around and Wine Bar George has great upstairs views. I’m sure it must be beautiful at night with Morimoto Asia in the backdrop.

Wine Bar George was everything I expected and more. The restaurant and bar space is beautiful and the staff is just as passionate about wine as George Miliotes himself. The wine, cocktail, and food menu all perfectly complement and contrast flavors and show a clear understanding of what makes a great restaurant.

I think there is so much potential at Wine Bar George and I am looking forward to seeing this business blossom at Disney Springs. I’ll be back soon.

Restaurant Name: Wine Bar George

Neighborhood: Disney Springs

Address: 1610 Buena Vista Dr., Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830

Phone Number: (407) 490-1800

Website: http://winebargeorge.com/

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

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

Twitter: @WineBarGeorge

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Sunday Brunch at O Cocina (South Tampa)

Full disclosure: I was invited to try the brunch menu at O Cocina for a complimentary tasting in exchange for my opinion. These opinions are my own and do not represent O Cocina.

I am normally skeptical of the phrase “Modern or Contemporary Mexican”. It usually means expensive food that pretty much ditches all the things that make Mexican cuisine what it is minus some tortillas or guacamole. I’m happy to report that my experience at O Cocina was the furthest thing from that and truly represented a thorough understanding of Mexican cuisine in a gourmet twist.

I specifically came to try the brunch menu on my visit. What I found is that O Cocina maintains the freshness of Mexican cuisine and doesn’t ditch but embraces the spices or flavors that make it so great as it tries to reinvent it to a more elegant audience than your taqueria or dive food truck.

The meal began with an order of Huevos Rancheros ($11). To me the standard will always be represented by dishes such as this one. It sounds like an easy dish, but there is so many complications to it such as the ranchero sauce used, quality of the sides, tortilla, and of course the egg. O Cocina includes chorizo in their brunch dish and masterfully complements it with their version of beans that maintained true to Mexican staples.

The ranchero sauce has a fresh tomato taste as you can see. Nothing spicy here (not a problem for me). The fresh avocados were a plus – but for an even greater experience, I recommend adding sour cream to this dish as a side. The tortilla could be a little crispier for my liking, but I still enjoyed it nevertheless. The egg was also cooked just right (commonly ruined at many restaurants trying to adopt this dish).

I added Carne Asada ($7 extra) to my dish simply because I knew I wouldn’t be able to order both and stay hungry to finish.

The thing I found to be great was the seasoning of their Carne Asada, many chefs when creating their Mexican steak on the menu ditch the traditional seasonings that are honestly perfect to begin with and I was happy to find that O Cocina seasons their Carne Asada perfectly.

You can order a bowl of Carne Asada for around $11 which is a great price for brunch considering how much brunch seems to cost at some restaurants these days.

One interesting dish I also tried was the Churro Waffles ($5 for a side). Clearly playing to a trend happening in the restaurant sphere with churros literally being used for anything, this dish masterfully played both the flavor a waffle and a churro into an excellent breakfast item. I was impressed and would order it again. It was clear the creator of the menu wanted to do more than provide a sugary adventure and this dish was successful at this fusion dish.

For libations, I tried the mimosa which is standard and met my expectations (they are available bottomless by the way).

Although, the real winner to me was the cocktail I tried called Jose Gaspar (pictured above). This cocktail has milk, rum, bourbon, Madagascar vanilla bean, Mexican cinnamon, and nutmeg, It is a powerful and tasty concoction that reminded me of Rumchata but was a thousand times superior.

During my visit I decided to sit at the bar and watched the bartender at O Cocina carefully making cocktails from scratch. They all looked good and I can’t wait to try more in the future.

Speaking of the bar at O Cocina, it is one of the most beautiful bars I have seen in town. It brings up thoughts of Alice in Wonderland or Secret Garden. It is truly underrated how few bars in Tampa actually have a good ambiance so this was a welcome addition to me at O Cocina.

The chips and salsa were also great as was the guacamole, but at $10 for a fresh spread of guac – you’ll want to make sure you’re sharing with someone if you choose to order it (the portion was quite generous). I found it went well inside my Huevos Rancheros and with the steak.

I recommend visiting O Cocina if you haven’t had a chance to stop by yet. The operators will also be opening a second location soon at the new Armature Works food hall in Tampa Heights called Cocina Taqueria so look out for that soon.

Restaurant Name: O Cocina

Cuisine: Mexican, American

Neighborhood: South Tampa

Cost: $$

Address: 4110 Henderson Boulevard, Tampa, FL 33629

Phone Number: (813) 289-0649

Website: http://www.ococina.com/modern-mexican

Menu: http://www.ococina.com/modern-mexican#menus-1-section

Roux Tampa launches new lunch menu and it’s excellent

Full disclosure: I was invited to Roux Tampa for a tasting of their new lunch menu in exchange for my opinion. Any opinions stated are my own and do not reflect Roux Tampa or any affiliates.

I visited Roux Tampa today for a tasting of their new lunch menu. The new menu has a variety of dishes added alongside items that were traditionally available. Most menu items are $12 or less, providing an affordable and quality experience.

Boudin Balls at Roux

We started with the Boudin Balls ($7): Two crispy boudin balls with rice, pork, onions, green peppers, seasonings, creamy pepperjack cheese, Zatarain’s Creole mustard crema. These were excellent and plenty to share. Every last bite was delectable and a waiter nearby was correct to mention that they went great with the in-house hot sauces at Roux.

Florida Gator Bites at Roux Tampa

The Florida Alligator Bites ($14) also did not disappoint. They were crispy in a way that might remind you of Bang Bang Shrimp though with a Cajun-twist. I also loved these – they were on the heavier side compared to the Boudin Balls, but went extremely well with the cocktails tried.

Cornbead Skillet at Roux Tampa

Another appetizer we indulged in was the Roux Iron Skillet Cornbread ($9) which features sweet corn, streusel topping, jalapenos, and Steen’s Cane Syrup butter. First of all, everyone who goes to Roux should have this on EVERY visit. It is phenomenal. It might not be new to the menu as I remember it being served in the past, but it is memorable and delicious down to every last bite.

All three appetizers stood up well and I would have been happy with any of them, but like I said you must order the cornbread if you visit Roux. If you love yourself that is.

Cucumber Fizz at Roux Tampa

Cajun Mule at Roux Tampa

Then there was the Cucumber Fizz Cocktail and Cajun Mule. The Cajun Mule features an exclusive Tidal Boar Cajun Ginger Beer that twists the expected flavor of a Moscow Mule, but in a good way. Both drinks were refreshing and exactly the kind of drinks you want to enjoy in Florida.

The ingredients balanced well and the booziness was just right, which shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the importance Datz Restaurant Group has placed on drinks at their establishments.

Moving on to the main courses…

Steakburger at Roux Tampa

Pork Belly Banh Mi Po' Boy at Roux Tampa

We enjoyed the Steakburger ($12) with fries which has a ribeye-filet patty that will most certainly satisfy a quick burger craving, but the Pork Belly Banh Mi Po’ Boy ($12) stole the show.

Each piece of pork belly hit your tongue with pleasurable fatty goodness. The composition of the sandwich fit the banh mi name well and the ingredients were all fresh. The French Bread in the sandwich had the crunch we all have come to expect from a delicious banh mi sub without hurting the jaw.

The Asian-Creole fusion works well and I’m quite curious to see how this could be utilized in other dishes considering the heavy influence the French have in Vietnamese cuisine.

It’s important to note that this isn’t your average banh mi and to examine that in the pricing as well since a banh mi sub will normally run you somewhere between $4 and $7 by itself.

Red Beans & Rice at Roux Tampa

We couldn’t leave without having some red beans & rice ($8) which is a staple of New Orleans cuisine. The dish normally adds meat on top for an additional charge, but we wanted it as a side dish. It’s a solid dish and a true homage to Louisiana Creole cuisine.

Summer of 75 at Roux Tampa

Finally, before leaving I had the Summer of 75 which is a gin cocktail (please keep reading!) that actually tastes more like a pineapple French 75 (hence the name I assume). This cocktail was excellent and continued the excellent mixology menu. Well-balanced and not too sweet, while having the right amount of booze. Roux could carry itself on its cocktail selection by itself, but of course the food is also great.

To conclude, what we have here is a great lunch menu and cocktail list that is well worth your time and fairly priced. Stop by Roux for lunch. I’d recommend it.

Roux Tampa. 4205 South MacDill Avenue Tampa, Florida 33611. (813) 443-5255. http://www.rouxtampa.com/

Tampa needs more Korean BBQ

For as happy as I am about the Japanese ramen and izakaya food gods shining on us lately in Tampa, there is another food concept that I am not seeing enough of in Tampa: Korean BBQ.

Korean restaurants are sprinkled around Tampa with Sushi Ninja perhaps leading the pack with the biggest menu of authentic Korean dishes (we even have a delicious Korean food truck called Mmm Bap) – but concepts usually lack Korean BBQ grilling. The popularity of Japanese hibachi/teppanyaki steakhouses and all-you-can-eat concepts (see Koizi, Saki, Ginza) suggests that given the right promotion and effort – Korean BBQ could be huge for the Tampa Bay area.

Izziban Sushi in Orlando has made the concept thrive and now has two concepts in Orlando and one down south near Miami. Izziban offers Korean BBQ with the option of a la carte or buffet with as much meat as you want and the addition of classic sushi rolls and appetizers with prices ranging from $20 for lunch/late-night and $30 for dinner.

samgyupsal

Other restaurants in the Orlando area have caught on and are offering their own take on Korean BBQ with some sticking to just pork belly or samgyupsal and other more basic meat choices. The prices are comparable to what it costs for just one dish of Korean food here in Tampa and perhaps an appetizer.

Another case for more Korean BBQ in Tampa is the communal vibe that eating Korean BBQ has. This is representative of Korean culture where often co-workers, family members, or friends will enjoy a meal today and share their food. It makes food part of the bonding process in eating out and makes food more social. This could be big for corporate events, birthday parties, and family get-togethers.

Grills for Korean BBQ are smaller than those used in Japanese steakhouses and provide for more conversation –  you also are usually in charge of cooking your own food in these concepts.

I’m not sure if I even have a preference on how the concept should arrive here in Tampa. All I know is there is a serious lack of options for Korean BBQ in the Tampa Bay area and that it could be a popular concept if someone would invest in bringing it here.

Here is a quick look at Korean BBQ via Eater:

So who wants to be first and help turn Tampa Bay on to the K-BBQ craze?  I’m waiting.

Deal Alert: Soul of Korea Summer Set

If you love Korean food, check out the summer set deal at Soul of Korea in the Temple Terrace area at 7612 North 56th Street.

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The deal costs around $38 and will net you bulgogi (marinated beef), galbi (short ribs), fish, kimchi tofu stew, japchae noodles, and a ton of side dishes with rice included. Bought separately you would pay much more and this set can easily feed 2-3 people so make sure to bring a friend.

The side dishes which are known as banchan in Korean are served in plentiful portions and have an authentic taste that is reminiscent of Korean food in South Korea.

Enjoy!

Soul of Korea. 7612 North 56th Street Tampa, Florida 33617. (813) 989-3030

Carlos Eats is seeking sponsors!

Carlos Eats is seeking sponsors.

Are you interested in having your business promoted and help with promotion of upcoming food-related events? Carlos Eats has a growing network that you can connect with through this website and social media. The goal of this effort it to help me reach more people (possibly due a site re-design upgrade), grow the site, and help raise funds to increase the number of restaurants exposed on Carlos Eats and help me get to some restaurants that might be hard to access.

Note: Reviews cannot be purchased as I value my integrity and connection with my readers (as should you!). However, a food tasting is always a great way to get connect.

Alternatively, if you would just like to leave a donation, you can leave a donation here (no Paypal account necessary). Your support is appreciated! 🙂

If you’re interested please fill out a contact form!

Thank you! Expect some updates soon. (Back to exams… :()

Easter Sunday 2012

Easter was a nice chance to kick back with the family and enjoy some home cooking. My sister did not disappoint the family. She hosted a feast with steak, chicken skewers, mashed potatoes (using my Mom’s famous recipe), chips and homemade salsa, flan, and more! We also now have a ton of candy in the house thanks to some overestimating on egg stuffing choices. It’s like Halloween all over again.

Here are some photos:

Lemon Grass Thai Kitchen – now open in Riverview

I ordered takeout from the relatively new Lemon Grass Thai Kitchen in Riverview. When the Great Recession hit business almost hit a halt in this area. It is nice to see the area growing again now that the economy is in recovery. Normally I am a little cautious to order Thai takeout because my history with it has been pretty awful. Normally my Pad Thai is dry and sauceless by the time it gets home. I am happy to say that this was not the case with Lemon Grass!

The Chicken Pad Thai tasted as fresh as if I was in the restaurant for dinner and it was priced reasonably as well at around $10 if I remember correctly. The color of the noodles shows there was plenty of sauce and there was plenty of chicken mixed in. They were also quite generous with the noodles, normally unheard of in my past with Thai takeout orders.

The lady at the register was friendly as well. She informed me that they have a lunch buffet for under $10. Thai lunch buffet within minutes of my house!? You know I am going back. It is good to have a Thai restaurant closer to home (although I do still love Ploy Thai and Jasmine Thai). I’m excited for growth in Riverview. 🙂

Lemon Grass Thai Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Name: Lemon Grass Thai Kitchen

Cuisine: Thai

Neighborhood: Riverview

Address: 11106 Bloomingdale Ave. Riverview, FL 33578

Phone Number: (813) 654-0671

Website: http://www.lemongrassbestthai.biz

Carlos Eats Seoul: First Nepal Restaurant – 2

My first few days living in Sinchon I had a difficult time finding good places to eat. Sinchon is surrounded with hundreds of restaurants. Lots of chains and plenty of places for people unfamiliar with the area to waste lots of money on overpriced food. I started to get a little discouraged after the first few days, but as if the food stars shined a light of guidance on me; some friends randomly took me to First Nepal Restaurant for my first good meal in Edae right by Sinchon. Ironically, my first great meal in Seoul would be Indian cuisine and not Korean.

This restaurant would be easy to miss while passing. Scratch that: most places in Seoul are easy to miss. Most things are built upwards with some buildings having over eight floors of businesses. My friends and I mostly stick to places on the first floor unless we know what we are looking for. I was lucky to have a Korean friend guiding us to this restaurant.

When you enter its almost like you left Seoul for a second. The windows looking out into Edae are the main thing reminding you that you are still in Korea. The man working there is from Nepal, but speaks perfect Korean and also understands English. You will find the most interesting combinations of people in Seoul. The menu had a variety of things to choose from appetizers, tandoori, curries, and nan bread to various dessert choices.

We decided to order Butter Chicken Makhani Curry (8,000 won), Seafood Curry (~9,000 won – not currently listed on their website), 2 orders of Butter Nan (3,000 won each) and 2 orders of Garlic Nan (3,000 won each). We also ordered 2 orders of Korean rice (1,000 won each). We ordered some extra Nan throughout our meal and the waiter even brought us an extra nan for free during our meal. You guys know college students love free stuff.  Service was above average. The waiter refilled our water for us quite a few times and the food came out in a timely manner.

How can I describe the taste of the curry dishes? I don’t think great does it justice. It was amazingly appetizing. We consumed every last drop of the curry with our nan bread. The seafood curry has an especially great taste to it. The curry tasted good with Korean rice and I could just as well throw the curry on a sandwich or anything else for flavoring because it was downright delicious. The thing about Indian food is you don’t realize how full you are getting as nan bread and rice tend to expand in your stomach after consumption, be careful not to order too much.

The Butter Nan was really sweet. It would have been a little too sweet on its own, but once it was dipped in some curry it tasted perfect. My friends also decided to order the Paneer Nan (4,000 won) which has cheese inside and it was also fantastic. I would recommend it.

We had about 5 people in our group and were able to get full on around 38,000 won worth of food total (~8,000 won per person). A really great deal for a meal like this. You would probably pay at least $13 (~13,000 won) before tax and tip for an Indian dinner per person in the United States. They have set meals as well for lunch and dinner, but I think it is better to just grab some friends and share so you can have a greater variety of dishes (as is the cultural thing to do in Korea anyway).

Overall, First Nepal is a great restaurant out in Edae and is close to Sinchon so both Yonsei University and Ewha University students can easily get to the restaurant. I recommend heading out there with a few friends as soon as possible so you can experience the great food I had for yourself. I really want to try the Galub Jamun dessert in the future and anticipate to have many future meals at First Nepal.

Restaurant Name: First Nepal Restaurant – 2

Neighborhood: Edae

Cuisine: Indian, Nepali

Menu: English, Korean

Address (English): 2F, #90-24, Daehyun-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, Korea

Address (Korean): 서울시 서대문구 대현동 90-24번지 2층

Phone Number:  02-364-8771

Website: http://www.firstnepal.com/

Other blogs about First Nepal:

http://www.seouleats.com/2010/03/first-nepal-indian-and-nepalese.html