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Orlando report (Downtown/Winter Park) (long)


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Orlando report (Downtown/Winter Park) (long)

ClevelandRandy | | Feb 17, 2009 02:09 PM

A quick report on a recent solo visit to Orlando. I stayed at the very nicely re-done Crowne Plaza on Colonial at I-4, so I was easily accessible to Winter Park and Downtown, and areas in between.

Thursday: The Ravenous Pig. Nice crowd, but not overly crowded or noisy. I was a little put off by the $3.00 charge for the gruyere buscuits, especially since they come in an order of 4, which would have made me a ravenous pig had I eaten all of them! They are too good, however, to pass up, so I got them (and thanks to the microwave in my hotel room, had one for breakfast the next day). I loved the micro-brew list, and was able to order 2 different 6-oz pours of different style beers, which was perfect. I then had a half-order of "Scampi flavored pasta with scallops." The name of this dish was a little odd, since there are no scampis in it. However, the pasta was home-made, there were 2 large, perfectly seared scallops, and the sauce was a delicious lemony-butter-garlic (sopped up with, you guessed it, a gruyere biscuit). My main course was Arctic Char (my favorite fish), served atop horseradish spaetzel and some very thinly sliced (chiffonade?) collard greens. Other than the odd presentation of the fish (skin side up), the dish was superb, and a very hearty portion. Everything worked together, and the fish was perfectly cooked (and it was one of the thicker pieces of Char that I've had). I think the pasta was $10 or $11 and the Char was perhaps $25. Service was a tad slow between courses, but I wasn't in a hurry and I was totally happy with the meal.

Friday: Graze. Accidentally (and happily) found myself sitting at the bar in the midst of what is unofficially known as Gays at Graze. I got there at 9:30, and was promptly informed that happy hour goes on until 10. The bar was nearly full, and the restaurant looked pretty full as well. The atmosphere was very friendly. I ordered a Caipirihnia (sp?) for $4 that was improperly made by one bartender, but the other bartender noticed it and corrected it immediately. I then ordered 2 small plates (both about $10): grilled octopus over a microgreen salad in a citrus dressing. This was outstanding. Next I had grouper sliders -- 3 small fried fish sandwiches on buns with a nice tartar sauce. The fish was perfectly cooked, and I thought it was a great amount of food for the price. They had a wonderful selection of wines by the glass for $5 at happy hour prices. Excellent evening, and quite the bargain, considering the happy hour prices. The bar staff was veyr personable, which is appreciated when one is dining solo.

Saturday: Luma on Park. My big mistake was going out to eat by myself on Valentine's Day. What a zoo. The only other time I had been to Luma was on a Sunday night, when it was serene and classy. My experience this Saturday was the opposite. I sat at the bar, which was jammed and not necessarily with the classiest crowd. As it turned out, the woman in the red dress that was sitting next to me was a prostitute who proceeded to work her trade in an embarassingly obvious way with whoever paid attention (including the 70+ yr old guy who wound up snuggling up with her, which almost foreclosed the thought of eating dinner). I ordered the red snapper ceviche appetizer ($11 I think), duck breast ($25) and a side of broccolini, blistered grape tomatoes with a sprinkling of mozzeralla. The ceviche was very nice, fresh and citrus-y, but not a terribly generous portion. It was served in a small mound in a large bowl, that made it look even smaller. The duck was just a little over-cooked, but not enough to send back. it was nicely flavored, and served over black "forbidden" rice (whatever that is, but it was wonderful) with a kumquat marmelade (excellent -- but a half teaspoon of it was hardly enough). The wines-by-the-glass list was quite extensive, but not a wonderful value. Service at the bar was indifferent, which is understandable considering the volume. All in all, this evening was the more disppointing of the 3. Try Luma on a Sunday -- it's much better without the crazy crowd.

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