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Caribe Royale

Musings: Eating In And Around Orlando

So here I am, back in my sanctuary.  The sun is shining and the sky is blue.  The birds are swooping back and forth to the feeders in my yard, and Mokka the cat lies lazily in the warmth of this November sun.  My heart is content and my soul feels peaceful.  I am “home”.

Our week away was lovely, even though we had a few stressful issues that came up.  In the bigger scheme of things they were very “high class” problems that were simply irritating but were really no more than infinitesimal blips on the radar of that particular week-long screen in our lives.  The sort of thing that was only as irritating as the amount of energy that we gave it, and we didn’t.

And beyond that were the joys we experienced.  A whole week just to ourselves.  No work issues or other people’s issues intruding on our time.  A time to be “lazy”.  A time to wake up and decide, with no hurry, what we wanted to make of the day.  We did “plan” a couple of things in advance but we also had the luxury of being able to change our minds and do something else – which we did once or twice.

I know I’ve already mentioned in previous postings that I really enjoy food.  Well I had the opportunity to indulge at various restaurants in the Orlando area.  Last year we enjoyed Bahama Breeze so much that we decided to return and we were not disappointed.  It’s an eatery that I would recommend to anyone visiting the area.  From the name you can guess that it offers a Caribbean flavored cuisine, and the menu is extensive and very mouth watering.

I love Indian food.  I had researched for a good Indian restaurant in the Orlando area and came up with the New Punjab Indian Restaurant on International Drive.  It had appeared as a recommended restaurant on several sites, and one in particular had described it as “quaint and unusual”.  On our various excursions out we had located what we thought was the Punjab place and so picked our night for Indian cuisine and went there.

As we walked from the car to the restaurant door I looked up and saw the name “Taj Punjab”.  A small warning bell rang in the back of my head but I couldn’t tie it to anything.  When we walked in the door I remember feeling disappointed and thinking, “hmmm, this doesn’t look either quaint or unusual, more like a regular diner or cafe”.  But the hostess was already upon us with a charming smile and asking “table for two?”.

I have nothing detrimental to say about the food or the service.  It was just “okay”.  Coming from London, where the best Indian restaurants outside of India can be found, I have a pretty high standard for Indian food.  This did not reach it.  The service was adequate and I did enjoy the Indian flavors and spices, but I knew that I was not “in joy”.  Imagine our frustration when we left the restaurant and discovered the New Punjab Indian Restaurant literally just around the corner.  Ah well, next year.

We had another excellent eating experience in the town of Winter Park.  I need to explain that this is what I choose to label an “elite” town.  It is classy, without appearing to be snobbish – although a few hours visit is probably not sufficient to determine that.  The main drag is pretty, quaint, and full of boutiques and some very interesting shops.  Here and there are small alley ways that open out onto minute courtyards with fountains and wrought iron and potted plants – very European.

A restaurant called Orchid Thai Cuisine caught our eye.  Richard is rather partial to a good Pad Thai and I’m always up for ethnic food of any variety.  This has to be a family run restaurant because our server (the only one,  and I’m sorry but her name eludes me) mentioned that her Mom made the ice-cream.  The service was excellent, the presentation of the dishes was superb, and the food was really delicious.  They also had the best Jasmine Green Tea that I have ever tasted, and I was so effusive about it that our sweet server gave me a few bags to take home:-).

The dinner that we had on our last evening was one that my husband had been promising me ever since we first visited Kentucky back in 1986!!  At that time he talked about going for a meal to Benihana’s Japanese Steakhouse, but we never made it.  Since then we have been back to Kentucky about seven or eight times but I never got my Benihana meal.

Well, as luck would have it, there was a Benihana’s located about a quarter of a mile from our vacation resort.  So Rich was finally able to fulfill his promise.  Over the last twenty six years of our relationship we have been to a couple of different Japanese steakhouses and have always enjoyed the experience.  Benihana’s didn’t change that.  The food was excellent as was the service and, of course, we thoroughly enjoyed the experience of watching the talented chef cook our food to perfection before our eyes.

However, I think the “eating experience” of the week was our Thanksgiving lunch at the Caribe Royale Hotel Resort.  This is the third year running that we have enjoyed Thanksgiving with them.  They prepare a truly world class supreme buffet that has something for everyone. Just to walk around, which I do so that, 1) I can look at everything, 2) decide what I will chose and what I will not, is a feast for the eyes.  The colors and presentations are superb.

There are huge platters of cheeses, fresh fruit, roasted vegetables, crackers, cold cuts, pates, and Mediterranean hors d’oevres accompanied by baskets of every kind of bread imaginable.  And that’s just the appetizer tables!!  Then there are more platters and fountains of seafood prepared in many ways from simply steamed to elaborately mixed with noodles or rice. And alongside these dishes are more platters with Sushi and vegetables and pasta salads of every kind.

This year I really paced myself and also made some very specific choices about what I wanted to eat so that I wouldn’t fill up in the first few minutes.  So, having eaten my fill from the previously mentioned dishes, I was then ready for the main course.  Yes, there was still the main course area to visit!  For those who wanted it there was soup available, then came the traditional choices of stuffing, a vegetable medley, mashed potatoes, marshmallowed yams, fillet of sole, smoked pork loin, turkey and wonderful roast beef.  Nothing was simple; everything had a specific flavor or sauce.  Absolutely divine!

And then there was dessert.  Four or five tables full of dessert.  Delectable cakes from Strawberry Shortcake to Spice to rich Chocolate Ganache to delightfully light Tiramisu.  Richard found some wonderful  sugar cookies that had an unusual caramel center and were drizzled with a white glaze. And of course their signature champagne flutes filled with a mousse and cream concoction rounded out the choices.   

I’m sure there are many more really good restaurants in the Orlando area, and as we plan to be there again next year I know that we will get to sample them.  Can you believe I’ve written such a long posting about food?  Well, if you know me well, you probably can.  Buon appetito!!     

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