Bob Mervine's Profile

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Need a nice/old French Restaurant in the Orlando area.

Try Coq Au Vin or Chez Vincent.

Bob

Oct 05, 2007
Bob Mervine in Florida

Food and Wine festival '07 @ Disney's EPCOT, Orlando, FL

Epcot Food & Wine
Sept. 2007

My apologies for the delay in posting this. It's been a challenging week at work and all this rain is making me lazy. Hopefully this will be in time for you weekend visitors.

Having spent nearly nine hours at Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival on the first Saturday (9/29/07) of the event, I'd like to share my notes and impressions with the board.

What we experienced, to make note, is only a small part of the total number of events and activities that take place over the six weeks of the festival.
Nearly all have a price attached to them and except for some of it that happens away from Epcot -- such as The Vertical Tastings and the Guest Chef Dinners – being in Epcot translates into a need for either an annual Disney theme park pass or multi-day tickets to enter. Otherwise it's a $75-plus pop each day you go.

Disney estimates 1 million people will participate in the event. Now I suspect they mean a smaller number of visitors will experience 1 million EF&S interactions, from buying a glass of wine to one of the full-blown events, but that's still a lot of people.
The point being a vast majority of those people's EF&S experience consists of buying some tapas-sized food plates and/or a glass of the wines, beer, coolers or other beverages offered at the 28 kiosk marketplaces spread around the 1-mile long World Showcase lagoon.

On the day of our visit, weather, walking and time was our enemies. Since my girlfriend and I (a woman who had never in her life visited a theme park and only did so at my behest) were also attending the Taste of the Senses event that (allegedly) began at 6:30, we did not want to overeat, so we were limited in how many plates, sips, etc. we could consume. This was complicated by the need to hydrate -- since the weather went from oven hot to chilly rain three times during the afternoon. We drank a lot of water.

Let me emphasize, I did not try every dish around the lagoon that I wanted. Some of my notes refer to eating the same dish last year, which could have changed this year and will be noted. Truthfully we didn't drink much wine. I had previously done a tasting of 12 of the wines being poured and I have those notes to fall back on.
The kiosk food tasting was done to accommodate my wine column, which won't publish until Oct. 25 and the food picks are designed to match the earlier tasted wine.

TIPS: Get a copy of the Festival Guide and open it to the two double-paged map in the center. Listed here is each menu item and beverage selection available. Determine your most favorite items and them plot a course -- starting at Mexico and moving clockwise or at Canada and moving counter clockwise. Keep in mind there are a few stands not next to a pavilion, such as the don't-miss Peru pavilion, but the map makes it easy.

My quick impression from walking through the Festival Center in FutureWorld is that it isn’t worth the trip. There are free classes running all day, with tastings, but the area primarily centralizes the stuff found elsewhere, unless you want a signed cookbook or something.

We started on the Mexico side.
The spicy beef empanada in the Argentina kiosk had a kick and was a really good pairing with one of the bigger reds --- I liked the Norton Reserve Malbec.
We tried both items at the Mexican kiosk; the chilaquies were one of my two favorite items. It’s a tortilla covered with shredded chicken and two kinds of cheese, deep-fried and the topped with an excellent salsa verde.
The chorizo taco, by contrast, was just sausage and tortilla. I almost think the prep person forgot some of the ingredients. It needed, at least, some cilantro or lime juice. Also small – and not a double tortilla as would be the normal presentation.
I had the boxty, an Irish pancake served with bacon and garlic butter, but the line was long and the portion appeared to be infinitesimal – bite sized – so we passed.
I thought the chicken sha cha, a dish served in the China pavilion restaurant normally at a slightly lower price, was quite good. Marinated dark meat with a peanut sauce – same deal with the pot stickers, except they scrimped on the ponzu sauce, Annoying that they couldn’t come up with something special – even the caramel and ginger ice cream is made locally by another company, marked up from the pavilion restaurant and sold.
By now it had rained and we were now wet and the steam from the rain made it unbearable. We passed on several items on my list because the 20-minute or so wait didn’t seem worth it. We walked some of the food off.
Interestingly the new(er) system of paying first and then handing the laminated card to the second station for service worked well in some places and not in others. And in at least 2 cases, I got double served because the cards stuck together. (I gave the extra food back).
Other kiosks not using that set up seemed to work about as well.
The Maine lobster roll (US pavilion) was adequate. At $6 it is the most expensive item and it is still a small portion.
The seared buffalo with scalloped wild onions at the Oklahoma kiosk looked like supermarket roast beef with sauce. Nicely cooked, and I thought the onion was better than the beef.
Passed on both the lamb slider (New Zealand) and the lamb chop (Australia) as I had them last year and the appeared to be identical. Trick with the slider is to ask for extra sauce; otherwise it can be quite dry.
My other standout dish was the cilantro duck (Arroz con Pato) in Peru. It’s shredded duck mean with a nice fresh cilantro flavor, mixed with peas and rice. Great street food!

For two of use we dropped a little over $50 without drinking much alcohol. Perhaps I have a larger appetitie, but the earlier post about spending $20 for two seems low, unless you just ate the cheapest stuff.
We ended up full and soaked with time to kill. Getting a pint at the UK pub was a challenge, finding a seat impossible. Don’t understand why, during the afternoon down time between lunch and dinner that they can’t open up at least the dining room for bar patrons. They turned away more business than they did in the time we waited.

Program states clearly that Taste of the Senses starts at 6:30. When we arrived the tent was nearly full and we spent the first 20 minutes finding a table, hitting the bathroom to regain a modicum of freshness, then worked the menu to select our choice bits of food and drink.

Overall, the takeaway impression for me this year was that the overall quality of food was the best in years. No peaks and valleys, with only one or two standouts and no clinkers. Fewer out of town chefs than ever and no name chefs at all.
I like that they give the creative Disney chefs stuck in obscure locations a chance to shine – but I came to eat food from restaurants I have heard of but never eaten in.
I had two standout dishes. One was a lovely crab cake and corn beignet from the Equinox restaurant in Washington. The freshly fried cake was paired with a schmear of crème fraiche that had a little bottarga (dried mullet roe) mixed with it. Great balance of flavors.
The other was a golden gazpacho garnished with a grilled shrimp from the Encore restaurant in Memphis.
My top wine was the Chimney Rock Elevage – their Bordeaux blend that was out of this world.
The cheese selection was pared back to six cheeses. The double cream French brie-style was the best. There was a Kerry Gold table that I didn’t bother with.
We had good service including a whole bottle of water when we asked for a glass.
The Cirque performance was, as always, quite good and didn’t seem as intrusive this year.
Also had my share of the Utopias, Boston Beer Co’s 50 proof cognac-style beer that they are selling at the marketplace for $190 a bottle as long as it lasts.

Overall a good experience. As said elsewhere at $135 – plus tax – comparable to any “Taste of” charity event with no annoying auction. At $200 plus, factoring in admission, I think I’d rather eat at Victoria and Albert’s.

Bob

Oct 05, 2007
Bob Mervine in Florida

disney dining?

No, we didn't. One of the people in our party asked about it. the server suggested the filet instead. Same with the lamb shank, which is also on the menu in a diiffferent form. They steered us toward the pork tenderloin.

Capital Grill has a similarly prepared steak - with Kona coffee dusting -- that I found to be far too sweet for my taste.

Bob

Oct 04, 2007
Bob Mervine in Florida

Orlando Fish Market? Please help!

I think both whole foods and fresh market do a good job with seafood. I second the mention of Lombardi's.

China Marketplace on Mills has an array of the type of seafood found in Cantonese dishes still swimming in a tank.

I go to New Smyrna to buy my shrimp, as you cannot trust what is sold here. Most of it has been sprayed with STP to retain the water weight and its awful.

Bob

Oct 03, 2007
Bob Mervine in Florida

Food and Wine festival '07 @ Disney's EPCOT, Orlando, FL

As to the cost, it's a relative question. Without an annual pass or other way to gain free access, you have to tack anoother $75 or so onto the dinner cost of $135 plus tax.

That's the equivalent of a dinner at V&A and, in my mind, not a comparable value.

If we eliminate the entrance fee in the equation, then we are in the realm of a nice charity "Taste of"-type event, to which it compares quite favorably.

Bob

Oct 03, 2007
Bob Mervine in Florida

Food and Wine festival '07 @ Disney's EPCOT, Orlando, FL

Why didn't you care for the boxty -- other than the small portion?

Bob

Oct 03, 2007
Bob Mervine in Florida

disney dining?

It's less a question of better or worse than what you are looking for.

Fulton's menu, by and large, is straight forward classic preparation of fresh seafood, housed in a building shaped like a riverboat.

Flying Fish is a themed restaurant -- the name represents one of the Coney Island roller coasters -- and the menu is seafood based, also fresh, but prepared in a more innovative style.

Mom and Dad might prefer the more classic style and the unusual setting. That's your call.

Bob

Oct 03, 2007
Bob Mervine in Florida

disney dining?

The tamarind short ribs are off the menu at Jiko and been replaced by a coffee-dusted version of the same dish.

Bob

Oct 03, 2007
Bob Mervine in Florida

disney dining?

It's all on the board, just not all in the same place.

Fulton's is fresh, expensive, crowded and doesn't take reservations. I'd pass.
Flying Fish would be my 1st choice. with the caveat of not having eaten the new chef's food and it's noisier than most with tons of kids. Of your four picks it's my selection.
Kona Cafe, nothing extraordinary.
Portobello Yacht Club is 2nd choice. Average to above average Italian, new chef, but menu is formulaic and it shouldn't matter.

Just for fun consider; Raglan Road, Blue Zoo at the Dolphin, Citrico's at Grand Floridian and Jiko. Dined there toight and, while it's lost the magic that Chef Anette gave it, it is still one of the more unique Central Florida restaurants.

Bob

Oct 01, 2007
Bob Mervine in Florida

Food and Wine festival '07 @ Disney's EPCOT, Orlando, FL

Went Saturday for select promenade tastings and Taste of the Senses.

Am working on a long post but won't get it done probably until Wednesday.

Two promenade favorites were the cilantro duck at Peru and the chiliquena (? spelling, notes at work), a fried chicken and cheese ball with salsa verde from Mexico.

Taste offered some of the overall best quality in recent years, but more limited selection and too many Disney chefs. Standouts were the crabcake beignet w/creme fraiche and dried roe and the golden gazpacho with grilled shrimp.

More to come.

Bob

Oct 01, 2007
Bob Mervine in Florida

Central FL area, great gyros?

Saturday was an "Eat and drink my way around Epcot" day, kicking off the Epcot Food & Wine Festival.

So, unfortunately, in the interest of fullfilling my primary mission of tasting a variety of the marketplaces meze (not to mention keeping a buzz on and keeping dry), I could only look longingly at the meat being prepared in the Tangine Cafe in the Morocco pavilion during a cooling off time.

Thiis gyro sandwich, in other parts of the middle eas,t is called by other names. At the Morocco pavilion is is called shawarma. The meats used are chicken and, I believe, beef. Could not tell how the sandwich is sauced. Definitely going back for a try .. .

Bob

Sep 30, 2007
Bob Mervine in Florida

Orlando - Hanamizuki or Amura? please help!

It's in downtown Orlando, an area called Thornton Park. About 15-20 minutes by car from where you are.

(621 E. Central Blvd. Orlando, FL, 32801-2916 407-420-9420 <sharisushilounge.com/>

Bob

Sep 30, 2007
Bob Mervine in Florida

Looking for the Restaurant Essence of Florida

Andy:

If you haven't checked the thread on Classic Florida Restaurants that netmover started some time back, there's a lot of good information there.
There are also a couple of threads abour Florida's beach shacks, beach dives, etc, that have good information in them.

There is so much diversity in food here -- seafood, citrus, Floribbean, Vietnamese -- that I suspect this will become another long running thread.

Bob

Sep 29, 2007
Bob Mervine in Florida

staying at Wyndham resort.. where to eat

Not sure I understand your comment about Atlanta. Are you coming from Atlanta and using it as a comparison?

Try Bahama Breeze on International Drive. It sounds like a perfect fit and convenient for where you seem to be staying. Also suggest Bonefish Grill (strictly seafood) or Moonfish (grilled fish and steaks and much more pricy), Both are on Sand Lake Road west of the Interstate and, again, near the Wyndham on I-Drive.

Bob

Sep 29, 2007
Bob Mervine in Florida

TOP BURGERS IN FLA

Because this thread has gotten so long, it's impossible -- or at least too much work -- to check on whether I've added two more of my Orlando favorites.
Sorry if I repeat myself.

One is the burger at the tavern at Dubsdread, Big, beautiful, perfectly cooked and served with great fries,
The other is at a place called Friends, It's on Mills south of Virgina on the west side -- sits back from the road a little. Best bleu cheese burger ever, and with a nice tall cold glass of Hefeweizen, it was perfection.

Bob

Sep 29, 2007
Bob Mervine in Florida

Local butcher needed

Most butchers would have nothing to do with the slaughtering end of things nor would they, generally, be interested in skinning and dressing the carcass.

You might contact Ali Meat Industry, (407) 277-9483 | 1616 S Dean Rd, Orlando FL 32825 and see if they can hook you up.

The other option that comes to mind would be to talk to the butchers at a more upscale place such as Fresh Market or Petty's and see if they can connect you with someone who would do it for you freelance. (I have no idea what they would charge you). Get the messy, first half of the process done and then have the butcher finish the job.

Bob

Sep 28, 2007
Bob Mervine in Florida

Chalet Suzanne Lake Wales

It has been years since I dined there, and I have no idea as to the continued quality of the experience. However, at one time, the place had such a repuration that people would flly in -- it has its own airstrip -- for dinner.

Just a guess, but I suspect culinary times may have passed them by . . .

Curious to see if anyone has dined there recenty.

Bob

Sep 28, 2007
Bob Mervine in Florida

Local butcher needed

Are they dead yet?

Bob

Sep 28, 2007
Bob Mervine in Florida

staying at Wyndham resort.. where to eat

Which Wyndham? the time share resort at Bonnet Creek or the one on Sand Lake and I-Drive.

If I-Drive, do a board search for I-Drive and Sand Lake or Restaurant Row restaurants. You are located at the intersection of two of the major restaurant streets in town and distance -- unless you are nuts enough to walk -- shouldn't be a problem.

We'll gladly opine of specific restaurants or genres in that immediate area if you share your likes and dislikes.

Like the other poster said . . .

Bob

Sep 27, 2007
Bob Mervine in Florida

Food Column/Orlando Area [moved from Florida board]

For a city our size, there is a surprising lack of quality food writing. In fact, there's a surprising lack of any food writing.

I don't know if it reflects the current state of print media but it certainly does not reflect the continued strong interest in the subject.

The local daily has two writers -- well three -- dedicated to the subject.
Mark Chediak covers the industry from a business perspective and is knowledgable and thorough, if a bit pedantic. He gives no indication in his writing that he is in any way passionate about the topic.
Heather McPherson edits the paper's food section and has for a long time. She, again, is extremedly knowledgeable and the scope of her limited space is broad. She does an annual list of ethnic grocery stores that is a great resource and she stays current on a wide variety of topics and tastes.
Scott Joseph is the paper's food critic. In the last year or so his work has expanded into the feature sections to write about topics beyond pure critique and much of it is quite a good read.
He has beeen the critic, again, for a long time and that simple fact affects a lot of his work, which can have the occasional "been there, done that" attitude.
I find that he finds himself quite amusing and his attempts at humor oftimes occupy space better served for food writing.
He has predictable likes and dislikes that frequent readers have learned to expect. Hates Italian, loves Asian, for instance.
He does a Friday column called Chowhound which takes note of one or two less important places and frequently contains industry gossip as well.
His regular column runs Sunday and is your traditional review. He does not rank *four stars, forks, etc.).
He does a monthly (I believe) review of a restaurant outside of Orlando, a destination restaurant good for a weekend tip.
He does an annual Foodie Award whcih includes a readers poll and then his decision on the winner in that cateory. Also a good resource.
He has a fetish about his anonimity, which has become a joke because of his length of time in the market. There are photos of him in most of our restaurants and spotting him in a new place has become routine.

Beyond that, the Orlando Weekly has several writers who do a weekly dining column and some sort of sidebar. Not always great, usually good and nice to read another viewpoint.

Orlando magaziine's writer, Rona Gindin, is quite knowledgeable. She also dines anonomously and her monthly column is quite lengthy and detailed. The magazine does a lot with food, including an annual Best Of award and 3-4 area wrap ups (downtown, Restaurant Row) that are extremely well done.

Those are the only regular major players here in town in that area . . .

Bob

Sep 27, 2007
Bob Mervine in Food Media & News

Great Chinese - Dr. Phillips area?

Especially Thursday -Sunday, Vines gets very noisy and crowded and not a good place for dinner.

Bob

Sep 26, 2007
Bob Mervine in Florida

Orlando - Hanamizuki or Amura? please help!

You are welcome, of course. Please report back on your findings.

Bob

Sep 26, 2007
Bob Mervine in Florida

Driving to Davenport

As for Davenport (or Haines City), it's a wide spot in the road that is really a sort of Tourist World suburb with vacation homes and hotels catering to Disney World tourists on the far (towards Tampa) side of Orlando.

The Omni at ChampionsGate is probably the best thing there -- search the board for specifics as some have not had a great experience while others have -- their signature restauant is called Zen.

Good news is you are a 10 minute drive from the Lake Buena Vista/Kissimmee area which does offer some promise. Again, search the board for those key words.

Bob

Sep 25, 2007
Bob Mervine in Florida

Vegetarian at Disney

And, generally, every restaurant there is especially friendly to special food needs. They have been on a healthy dining kick for a while and even the quick serve places offer fruit options and vegetarian substitutes.

It's always good to give them a heads up on the phone ( 800 WDW-DINE) about what you want in advance. In that regard, at least, their system works great.

Bob

Sep 25, 2007
Bob Mervine in Florida

Orlando area: ethnic gems and a fancy place?

Have you tried the place in Winter Park, next door to Rocco's on 17-92, I think it is called la Bodega or some variant of the word?

I stuck my head in and looked at the menu, and I've heard good buzz on it, and Scott Joseph gave it a passing grade.

Just wondering?

Bob

Sep 25, 2007
Bob Mervine in Florida

disney dining?

Get the mushroom soup. They use porcinis (I think) to create a smokey mushooom "bacon" garnish that you cannot tell from the real deal.

Bob

Sep 25, 2007
Bob Mervine in Florida

disney dining?

You are sincerely welcome.

I think as long as Fuji-san, Wolfgang's original sushi chef is there, the sushi component will be fine -- if you can get in.

I'm hesitant to be too specific about California Grill. I have not eaten the (relatively) new chef's food there, although I enjoyed it at Flying Fish. I've heard all good things about it, however.
The toll that the Disney Dining Plan is taking on all their fine dining restaurants is telling, and frankly, the hassle of getting a reservation and making the trek -- when compared to walking down the hallway at the Grand Cypress to Hemmingway's -- would make this one an easy choice for me.

As for other GC restaurants, don't overlook La Coquina for their chef's table dinner on the weekends and for the city's most fabulous Sunday brunch.
Plus there's a new restaurant called Nine18 that replaced the Black Swan with lighter, more contemporary fare -- and lower prices -- that just opened on Sept. 18 that might be worth a try.
To my knowledge the lobby sushi bar is still up and running, unless the chef is either on vacation or sick. In fact, they had ordered more equioment for him. Check with the concierge.

I'm supposed to be out there Friday for a tasting, but my schedule is not looking like it will acommodate the event. But, if so, I'm the heavyset guy with tthe pony tail !

Bob

Sep 25, 2007
Bob Mervine in Florida

L2M&gt; Fourteen Days til the big burrito! (moved from Florida)

I have no idea. Never been to Roberto's, never heard of it until this thread.

Sounds like I would like it, however.

Don't think Beto's has any connection with it. Beto's owner is a local guy who doesn't (or pretends he doesn't) speak English. I've tried to interview him on the phone with an interpreter without any luck. He apparently doesn't want anyone messing in his business . . .

Bob

Sep 25, 2007
Bob Mervine in Chains

disney dining?

The original in Miami was/is called Lario's and was started by Gloria Estefan's husband or brother. When they cut the deal to open at Downtown Disney, they couldn't use Lario's here because someone else owned the name, so they changed it to Bongo's.

The food was never good, never authentic, but for the vast majority of tourists eating there it was still too authentic and pricey. So they dumbed it down further. It's pretty much a cash cow -- only Cuban restaurant (besides Columbia) in the Disney area -- and the owners pay no attention and count the cash Disney leave behind.

Wolf decided to get out of the fast casual concepts he started a decade ago to focus on really original high concept cuisine. He cut a deal with Larry Levy to run all of his stores like the one at Disney and the one you mention. Levy, in turn, sold out to Compass Management, a huge British high-volume worldwide company and they have dumped on every one of his restaurants in order to raise profits and reduce costs. This is the result.

Bob

Sep 24, 2007
Bob Mervine in Florida

Orlando - Hanamizuki or Amura? please help!

Bayridge is cheap, but unless it's some kind of special offered certain times or days, I've never seen all you can eat.

The problem for me is in the economics. The simplest way to reduced operating costs is to reduce food costs. That means using a larger pot of rice longer, not throwing out trims, getting "bargains" on what is supposed to be fresh fish and using fillers in the rolls that reduce the amount of protein you are getting.

None of those things make for good sushi.

That said, I have eatern there several times. I found th sushi and the experience to be average. Not bad, a place I would eat at again if needed, but not a place I would go out of my way to recommend.

Sort of like buying a $200 Armani suit. Except a cheap suit doesn't have the potential of killing you.

Bob

Sep 24, 2007
Bob Mervine in Florida