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.

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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/

Tampa Bay Guide: Where to Eat, Drink, and Play

Wondering where to go in Tampa Bay? I have you covered. This guide is meant to be a way for you to navigate Tampa Bay and find great places to eat, drink, and play.

Tampa is filled with plenty of different types of businesses – but many of them are hard to find without someone telling you first.

The guide will be separated by neighborhood for travel purposes. Tampa Bay consists of Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and sometimes Sarasota is thrown in. I’ll leave Sarasota for another guide. Each major city is about 30-45 minutes away from the other depending on traffic so plan accordingly.

I live in Tampa so the majority of my recommendations will be based there. I will expand the list as I try new places. Also – the list is a work in progress.

Tampa

  • Apollo Beach
    • Circle’s Waterfront Dining
    • Marian’s Sub Shop
  •  Brandon/Riverview
    • Allegria Italiana
    • Bullfrog Creek Brewing Company
    • Chicago’s Best Burger
    • First Choice BBQ
    • La Villa River Hills.
    • Leaven Brewing Company
    • Revolution Ice Cream
    • Sarge’s Smokehouse BBQ (Food Truck)
  • Carrollwood
    • Bearss Sandwich Shop
    • Simply Pho & Grill
  • Downtown Tampa
    • Eat
      • Caffeine Roasters
      • Columbia Cafe
      • Eddie & Sam’s NY Style Pizza
      • Toma Spain Bar
    • Drink
      • Anise Global Gastrobar
      • Franklin Manor
      • Hotel Bar
      • The Gin Joint
    • Do
      • Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park
      • Pirate Water Taxi
      • Tampa Bay History Center
      • Tampa Museum of Art
      • Tampa Theatre
  • Gandy
    • 81 Bay Brewing Co.
  • New Tampa
    • Cafe Ole
    • Ciccio Cali
    • Full Circle Pizza
    • Oakley’s Grille
  • North Hyde Park
    • The Lab Coffee: The best coffee shop in Tampa based on sheer quality. The Lab is home to Zeal Coffee Roasters. Getting a pour over here will make my day. I drive over 30 minutes regularly to get here. They are still very mom + pop so don’t expect a big and beautiful cafe, but it is definitely an incredible coffee dive.
    • Raw Smoothie Co.
  • Seminole Heights
    • Brew Bus Brewing: Checking out Tampa’s craft beer scene? Brew Bus is a hub where you can hop on and off to different breweries around the central part of Tampa and down to Ybor. There is much more here though. Brew Bus makes their own beers and also owns Florida Ave. Brewing and makes a number of sour beers under that brand. They also have their own chef cooking up some great food as well. Biggest attraction is the ample parking which is almost unheard of in Seminole Heights.
    • The Independent: One of the most popular hipster bars in Seminole Heights. You’ll find an extensive beer list here and plenty of locals hanging around The Independent.
    • The Refinery: The original Refinery is gone, but if you still want some of their delicious food you’ll have to trek over to where Fodder & Shine once stood and The Refinery now stands. The Refinery originally built themselves on offering quality food to the masses. It became a hard to sustain mission and things have changed a bit, but one thing has always been good: their burgers.
    • Revolution Ice Cream
    • Spaddy’s Coffee Co.: Spaddy’s was the first one to bring real coffee down to Seminole Heights and actually bring Starbucks some competition. His food truck initially had a small piece of land and has expanded and grown as he built the area around him. Always having a great taste for coffee has been a major part of this business. Definitely a local, neighborhood coffee stop. It’s outdoors so weather should play a factor on if you stop by or not.
    • Sulphur Springs Sandwich Shop: Hanging off the edge of Seminole Heights heading towards USF is the Sulphur Springs Sandwich Shop. This is a classic sandwich shop that has become scarce in the era of Subway, Jimmy John’s, and Publix – but this shop carries with it quality deli cuts and plenty of creativity and local love.
  • South Tampa
    • Bella’s Italian Cafe
    • The Blind Tiger Cafe – SOHO
    • Caffeine Roasters
    • Ciro’s Speakeasy & Supper Club: Quite a number of transformations have happened at Ciro’s over the years, but one thing that has always been true is their commitment to quality cocktails. This is a great place to take a date or to have an elegant night out with friends. The drinks are on the pricey side, but the atmosphere definitely makes this a must-visit if you like taking a trip back in time.
    • Cru Cellars
    • Datz
    • Japanese Kitchen Dosunco
    • Noble Rice
    • Oxford Exchange
    • Restaurant BT
    • Roux Tampa
    • Sushi Ninja
  • Tampa Heights
    • Armature Works
    • Foundation Coffee Co.
    • Hidden Springs Ale Works
  • Town N’ Country
    • Cuenelli’s Peruvian Style Rotisserie Chicken
    • Filipiana Philippine Cafe
    • Saigon Deli
    • Thinh An Kitchen & Tofu
    • Tostones Inc.
  • University
    • Felicitous
    • Kaleisia Tea Lounge
    • Mel’s Hot Dogs
    • Mr. Dunderbak’s
    • Prost
    • U Poke Spot
    • Wood Fired Pizza
  • West Tampa
    • Petit Piquant
    • Pupuseria Centroamericana
    • West Tampa Sandwich Shop
  • WestShore
    • Cigar City Brewing
    • Frankie’s Lobstah Trap
    • The Floridian
  • Ybor City
    • Eat
      • Al’s Finger Licking Good BBQ
      • Bernini
      • The Bunker
      • Due Amici
      • El Puerto Restaurant & Grill
      • James Joyce Irish Pub
    • Drink
      • The Brass Tap
      • The Bricks of Ybor
      • Cigar City Cider & Meadery
      • Coppertail Brewing Company
      • TBBC

St. Petersburg

  • Downtown St. Pete
    • Cassis Bakery
    • Cycle Brewing
    • FarmTable Cucina
    • Ichicoro ANE
    • The Lemongrass Sushi Thai Tapas
    • Mandarin Hyde
    • Overflow Brewing Company
  • Madeira Beach
    • Mad Beach Craft Brewing Company

Clearwater

  • Clearwater Beach
    • Badfins Food + Brew: If you’re looking for a casual spot that has a great craft beer list and American/Mexican-inspired food than Badfins will have you covered. I wondered into here one day and was impressed with their offerings and prices were beyond reasonable for the area at $10 or less.
    • Caretta on the Gulf: Most of the spots on Clearwater Beach are touristy and Caretta on the Gulf is no exception being located inside the Sandpearl Resort. Despite being a tourist spot though I will say that their food is delicious, though pricey. You really can’t beat their patio view of the ocean and pool deck. They also have a great brunch buffet if you’re in town during the weekend.
  • Downtown Clearwater
    • La Fondita de Leo: Being from Puerto Rico, my family is really picky about where will eat Puerto Rican food. La Fondita makes the list and has authentic food. The prices are reasonable too.
  • Largo
    • Arkane Aleworks: 2018 winner at the Best Florida Beer Brewers Ball. Arkane Aleworks is haven for people who love sour beers. They have a wide-variety of options on their tap list and are constantly coming out with new creations. This is my favorite brewery in Tampa Bay.
  • Oldsmar
    • Faceless Samurai: Quality sushi in Tampa is hard to find. Faceless Samurai has great sushi and sashimi cuts. They have great lunch specials and dinner is still not too expensive either. Their shop is very quaint and the sushi chefs are friendly and remind me of a small shop in Asia.
  • Dunedin
    • Dunedin Brewery
  • Palm Harbor
    • Bunga Raya Malaysian Cuisine & Sushi Bar
    • Coolside Gelato Bar
    • Fireside Pizza Cafe
  • Safety Harbor
    • The Sandwich on Main

Food Trucks:

  • Craving Donuts
  • Empamama’s
  • I Wanna Wok
  • Soul Food Street Kitchen
  • The Twisted Iron
  • Vanchetta Food Truck
  • Wakamole Truly Mexican

Carlos Eats San Francisco Guide – Where to eat, drink, and play

Visiting San Francisco? I was born there and have a history with the city. I’ve been visiting frequently since 2014 and have noticed a major shift in the city as Silicon Valley has pushed into the Bay Area.

There are great quality food destinations to visit, but it takes more work than before to find quality businesses so I thought I would share some of my favorites with you.

Hopefully this guide helps you when you are in San Francisco. I separated the businesses by neighborhood because San Francisco is really broken up by neighborhoods and there is an obvious change between each one.

I believe San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities on Earth and I hope you enjoy it.

  • Bernal Heights
    • Barebottle Brewing Co.
    • Bolompie Cafe No 3
    • Mitchell’s Ice Cream
  • Castro
    • I’a Poke’
    • Kitchen Story
  •  Chinatown
    • Boba Guys
  • Dogpatch
    • Harmonic Brewing
    • Triple Voodoo Brewery
  • Excelsior
    • Los Planes de Renderos Pupuseria
  • Financial District (FiDi)
    • 111 Minna
    • Cafe Madeleine
    • Tropisueno SF
    • Workshop Cafe
  • Fisherman’s Wharf
    • Alioto’s:
    • Surisan
  • Hayes Valley
    • Smuggler’s Cove
    • Whitechapel
  • Inner Sunset
    • Japanese Tea Garden
    • The Taco Shop at Underdog’s
  • Japantown
    • Kuchi Tsuru
  • Marina
    • The Brick Yard
  • Mission District
    • El Farolito
  • Outer Richmond
    • Ton Kiang
  • Russian Hill
    • Buster’s Cheesesteak
  • SoMa
    • Trademark & Copyright

Pop-Ups:

  • Eats By E

Food Trucks:

  • Senor Sisig

Suburbs & Surrounding Cities:

  • Daly City
    • Fil-Am Cuisine 2
  • Napa Valley
    • Back Room Wines
  • Oakland
    • Oriental B.B.Q. Chicken Town
  • San Mateo
    • Nini’s

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.

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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waldorf4

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.

waldorf5

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:

Where to Ring in the New Years in Tampa Bay

Looking for a restaurant to spend New Years Eve with friends and family in Tampa Bay? I have you covered. :] Look below for some recommendations.

The Columbia – Ybor City: 3 dinner menu options for New Years Eve: Limited Ala Carte Menu, Dinner with Flamenco Dance Show, or New Years Celebration in the Ybor Cafe. You can make reservations here or call (813) 248-4961 for more information. St. Petersburg: Pre-fixed, 5-course menu for $49.95. The Columbia Cafe: Regular menu – open until 5PM on New Years Eve.

Donatello – Offering live music from Dwight Champagne, Jerry Kenny, and a surprise guest. Make reservations at (813) 875-6660

El Puerto Restaurant & Grill – Open until 2AM on New Years Eve for some delicious Latin American cuisine. They will provide the traditional Spanish 12 grapes of luck called doce uvas for customers as well.

The Fox – Offering a 4 course dinner, champagne toast, and party favors, in addition to live jazz music for $85/person or $170/couple. Walk-ins are accepted for $50 at the door with a champagne toast and party favors only. Call 813-289-8446 for reservations

Ocean Blue Sushi – Featuring a New Years party with the usual 1/2 off beers, wells, house win, sushi, and appetizers after 10PM in addition to $60 bottles of Absolut (bottle-service available), $30 bottle of champagne, $6 on all premium liquors/$4 on all absolut vodka, $4 Ocean Blue Cocktail Champagne, $2 jello shots. DJ Bootron will be spinning until 3AM.

The Rack – $10 all you can drink special from 11PM-1AM and 50% off everything for everyone after 1AM. Call 813-250-1595 for more details.

Spanish Restaurant & Toma Bar – New Years Eve dinner including a New Years hat and favors, glass of wine/sangria/beer, choice of appetizer, specialty house salad, entree, dessert, grapes, and a champagne toast at midnight with live music and flamenco dancing. $65 per person.

Carlos Eats Seoul: Chois’ Tacos Burrito Challenge Preliminaries in Sinchon

This is a guest blog written by Emanuel – a friend from USF who is studying abroad with me in Seoul, South Korea. He participated in the Chois’ Tacos Burrito Challenge and made it to the semi-finals. Chois’ Tacos has been in making tacos and burritos in Sinchon for years.

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Me and Carlos go way back. At least three months. Maybe even more.

Actually, we met at a Christmas party a few years ago, and hadn’t realized that we were both coming to Korea until a month or two in advance of our leaving. We recognized each other in one of the orientations where they tell you not to commit grand larceny and not to inappropriately touch the locals, and knew we were in for a treat.

Fast forward a few months to a brisk night in Seoul, South Korea.

As we rounded another street corner, coming closer for the destination for that night, Chois’ Tacos alongside one of the main commerce streets in Sinchon, I reflected on our coincidental visit to Korea, and how it ended up in a group of international students walking to an eating contest preliminary. Of all the things to do in South Korea, stuffing your face full of burrito at an alarmingly gluttonous rate was not exactly on the travel brochure. I don’t think it’s on any brochure, actually.

So we get to the burrito joint, and the owner, Chois, is already making burritos for two entrants who are to go just before us. The deal is this: eat an entire large burrito in two minutes or less, and it’s free. Place in the top 15 of qualifiers, and you’re invited to the prestigious contest that Sunday. A a quick glance at the board showed a slew of names recognized for their triumphant efforts – thirty or so names below the two minute barrier, etched in permanent marker for all eternity. Or until the ink wears out. Whichever comes first.

Among the names, at the very top, laid Someone Somebodicus from the USA. I can’t remember his name, but that was probably it. Clocked in at 1:11, his herculean effort was recognized as the quickest time set. We joked about his American origins, and after a few fat jokes from the Europeans in the group, realized that we’d be lucky to break two minutes and get our free burrito, let alone put Somebodicus in his place.

The two Korean entrants had just finished at a rapid pace of about two and a half minutes. Their red, strained, and painfully taut faces reconciled the pain me and the other entrants were about to endure. For sure, we wouldn’t be able to break two minutes. Some of us began to falter and wonder if competing was even worth it – after all, if you’re going to buy a burrito, you may as well enjoy it.

No one chickened out, however. We all took our seats, paid our respects to the pile of meat, cheese, and random assortment of vegetables wrapped in tortilla in front of us, and grabbed them like the hungry, angry, and determined men that we were. I took a sip of water to wet my gullet, put on my serious face, and brought the burrito to my mouth. The gaping maw of despair and darkness that is my mouth readied for the imminent feast. “Forgive me lord, for I realize not the tortuous and disgusting things I will wrought upon this innocent burrito. I am but only a hapless man.” I thought to myself.

I was not going to pay for this burrito, even if it killed me. I may enjoy eating, but I largely enjoy not paying for things even more. And I also forgot my wallet. I took a deep breath, looked at Mr. Chois as he readied the stopwatch, and reminded myself that obviously, placing in the top 15 was impossible, but if I had to pay for this burrito, I’d surely be tired from all the running from Mr. Chois, because he did look like a nimble fellow.

He said go, and I shoved the burrito in my face. Bite by bite, I slid the bits of cooked flesh and assorted plants down my throat at an alarming rate. Something took hold of me, and I became a burrito eating demon. I don’t remember much from the actual feast, but when I came out of my crazed haze of hunger and darkness, all I remember was cheering. And before I knew it, my hands were empty, my mouth half full, and as I swallowed the last bit, I shouted “Chois’ Taco!” and my time was set.

One minute, and twelve seconds.

Not only had I broken the two minute barrier for my free burrito, I’d placed second in the preliminary, guaranteeing my seat in the competition on Sunday, as well as a complimentary five free burritos for my performance.

It was, without a doubt, the happiest day of my life.

The burrito was good. It was hearty. It was delicious. It was all a man could ask for. Well proportioned, cooked to serve right in front of you, and in a lovely little shop by the street, at a reasonable price at around $5.5 USD. The steak used was actually cooked perfectly, even if it was going to just be shoved into my face at seventy six miles an hour, which leads me to believe that it’s probably even more scrumptious when the chef knows the eater will probably get to take their time and enjoy it.

Restaurant Name: Chois’ Tacos

Cuisine: Mexican

Neighborhood: Sinchon

Address: 13-27 Changcheon-dong, Seodaemun-gu (서대문구 창천동 13-27) +82 2 362 2113

Directions: Take the subway, 2 line/Green line, to Sinchon Station. Go out exit number 3 and head towards Yonsei University. At the first intersection with a traffic light turn right. After about 100 meters, Chois’ Tacos will be on your right.Phone Number:Website:

Carlos Eats Korea: Selected for the 1st Korean Food Tour for Foreign Foodies

When I was researching about South Korea before I traveled to study abroad I came across an interesting event: the 1st Korean Food Tour for Foreign Foodies, sponsored by The Ministry for food, Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries and the Korean Food Foundation. Applications for participants were being accepted and I was lucky enough to be chosen as a finalist to join a team of college students to be featured on this food tour.

During the first orientation I learned that I will also be on television, KBS2 (Korean Broadcasting System 2) and cameras will follow us on every step of our way through the Jeollanam-do province of South Korea. We also found out we have to plan our own trip through our province step-by-step and explain why and how we decided to pick each restaurant or location we will visit and that in the end there will be a roadmap created for future foreign visitors to South Korea looking for the best foodie destinations (I get to make a difference!). Lucky for me my South Korea travel book states “ask anyone any they’ll say the best food in South Korea can be found here [Jeolla]”.

Jeolla-do is the ancestral home of the Yi family of the Joseon family (one of the longest cultural development periods in South Korean history including the invention of the writing system called Hangul by King Se-jong) with cooking techniques handed down for centuries. Jeolla is one of the least developed areas of South Korea, which makes it a perfect place for sightseeing. Warm weather allows for large agricultural  production in the region. There is certainly much to be seen in Jeollanam-do and much to be written. Stay tuned for updates on my journey to the southwestern province of South Korea. 🙂

 

Photo credit:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/briandeutsch/2270777402/

http://briandeutsch.blogspot.com/2010/10/viewing-fall-foliage-in-and-around.html