Downtown Food and Wine Fest: A Feast for the Senses

Downtown Food & Wine Fest 2015 1200 x 1200This weekend Orlando will be a food-lover’s dream-come-true when the 7th annual Downtown Food and Wine Fest comes to town Saturday, February 21 (noon to 9 p.m.) and Sunday, February 22, 2015 (noon to 7 p.m.). More than 30,000 foodies and wine lovers are expected to experience unique local cuisine paired with wines from around the globe. The Fest is held on E. Robinson Street at Lake Eola, in the heart of Orlando.

Dave Robbins, senior vice president and market manager, CBS RADIO Orlando (event presenter and producer) commented, “Through the power of radio and the strength of our FRLA restaurants, foodies and fans come together to celebrate an event that truly brings our community together to indulge in the sights, sounds, and tastes of Orlando.”

Over 30 of Orlando’s top restaurants will be on-hand serving up Tapas-style plates for anywhere from $2 to $6. Just a few of my favorites include Hard Rock who will have their Award Winning Mac ‘n’ Cheese, Marlow’s Tavern (serving up their shrimp and grits that I LOVE!), Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe (give their Pretzel w/ Obatzer Cheese Dip a try) and Cooper’s Hawk with Red Wine Braised Short Rib.

There’s a Wine Taster’s Club with a special wine sampling lanyard that will allow you to sample 2 oz. samples of 5 different fine wines, but there are over 50 types of wine on tap. Little Black Dress Wines are the official wine of the 2015 Downtown Food & Wine Fest. Check them out along with all the other amazing offerings.

Entertainment lineup includes musical entertainment and Lifehouse Saturday and Loverboy on Sunday. Plus there will be other acts throughout the weekend, including Osteen Florida native, CeCe Teneal.

A glimpse of my last meal at Siro at Orlando World Center Marriott.

A glimpse of my last meal at Siro at Orlando World Center Marriott.

As a highlight of this celebration of Orlando’s Culinary Scene, restaurants will compete for the 2015 Golden Fork awards. Judges for the 2015 Downtown Food & Wine Festival will include Kayla Becker the Host of Orlando My Way,  Kala Rama from WKMG- Local6 news, Bo Outlaw, Orlando Magic Community Ambassador, and Scott Fais,  News Journalist on News 13. Previous winners include:Smiling Bison – Pretzel Bread Pudding, 2014 Foodie AwardKasa Tapas & Raw Bar,2014 Best Overall Menu; Siro at Orlando World Center Marriott, 2014 Best of Show (winner in 2013 and 2014).

For the Ultimate experience, buy tickets for the Ultimate Fest Experience that includes the Wine Taster’s Club, $20 in food tickets, great viewing of the bands, plus VIP parking! Click here for all the ticket options.

See you this weekend for a fabulous foodie FEST!


Disclosure: I was given two admission tickets for the event in exchange for writing about this fun food event. I’ll be buying my own food and wine. And lots of it!

Food and Wine Conference

Food and Wine ConferenceThis weekend, July 18–20, Family Foodie, Sunday Supper and Rosen Hotels present a Food and Wine Conference at Single Creek Golf Resort. Food and wine bloggers from all over the country will gather to eat, greet, and tweet about all things culinary.

Keynote speakers include Whitney Miller and my Rad friend Emily Ellyn.

Great platinum sponsors include Gallo Family Vinyards, Dixie Crystals, Idaho Potatoes, OXO and Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner.

The Cabot Cheese is a supporter. So is Parkesdale Market (a FAVORITE) of mine! But what’s the link with Busch Gardens? Why sponsor? What’s the connection?

Travis Claytor, PR Manager, Busch Gardens Tampa, says “Busch Gardens’ culinary scene is constantly expanding and evolving to meet and exceed guest expectations. We are excited to be a part of the Food and Wine Conference and continue to connect with BuschGardensLogofood bloggers across the country. With an increasing knowledge of food and dining, we know the importance of providing exciting culinary options for all our guests. Additionally, although we can’t talk about it quite yet, we are excited for additional culinary elements at Busch Gardens as we move in to 2015.”

Today is the last day to sign up for the Food and Wine Conference.
Happy eating and drinking, blogging and Tweeting!

Follow #FWCon for all the latest!

Hello Fresh New Meal-Time Options!

I’m a foodie. I love cooking, and love trying new recipes. When I’m at a restaurant, I call it “adventure eating.” And now, I find I can “adventure eat” right at home. Easily!

shrimp chorizoHelloFresh is a subscription-based food delivery service that takes all the guess-work out of whipping up a new and interesting meal. It’s trying something new, without having to do all the work of research, shopping, measuring, and the like. Simply go to their website, pick out the type of box you want (Classic or Vegetarian) and a 3-meal ready-to-prepare kit will be delivered to your door full of excitement, and (best part) there’s NO need to figure out how to buy “a quarter bag of kale.” If your recipe calls for “a little,” then that’s what you get. (Is it just me, or do you loath buying a huge bag, box, portion of an ingredient when ya just need a handful, a quarter-cup, or EEK a dash?!) food box

I ordered the Classic box (although I’d LOVE to try the vegetarian box in the near as friend and fellow blogger Meg said it was yum). (Here’s her blog entry that details how, while it might not seem “frugal,” it can be.)

We decided to make the Shrimp & Chorizo Stew with Kale first. (My 6-year-old and I voted two to one against my non-shrimp-loving hubs. Sorry Babe.) My “tot chef” and I started by pulling out all the ingredients. He set to work on peeling the potato while I chopped the onions. Together we made short work of the creation which (to my husband’s delight) turned out delicious (and is a recipe we’ll be recreating again real soon)!

Next on our list that week was Chicken Polpetti, followed later in the week with Spicy Thai Beef with Coconut Rice. While usually a Thai fan, and while it looked gorgeous, it wasn’t my favorite (and the photo in the recipe card does NOT do it justice). My husband gave it a high 8, but I found the rice a bit too sweet from the coconut milk. Good news: We all tried something new, cooked together, enjoyed our time, and discussed “where Thai food comes from” (and as a homeschool family, this is good stuff!).

A beautiful bite of Spicy Thai Beef with Coconut Rice

A beautiful bite of Spicy Thai Beef with Coconut Rice

We enjoyed the process and the product. This is “right up our alley” because creating and eating food together is something we’ve done since our family was just the two of us, and has only increased since baby made three. We find it to be a creative outlet, AND it has helped us raise a kid who is not super picky. (He has his moments, but he’s generally open to trying new things.) While some families may find it impossible to believe a first-grader would enjoy dishes with kale and cilantro (among other more exotic ingredients), our son helped prepare the meals which makes it: A) a matter of pride to say it was good, LOL and B) transparent as far as “what’s in it.”

Adventure Eating is just a few clicks away from your table, if you’re willing to give HelloFresh a try. And, to make it a better deal, use code B5FFZT for $20 off your first order.*

Hello Fresh Code imageDisclosure: I received a free Classic 2-serving sized box for the purpose of this review. It won’t, however,  be the only box I get!  All opinions are my own. OK, that’s not exactly true. My 6-year-old had his say and has influenced me to say he had fun helping. And eating. (Except the spicy stuff. He vetoed that.) *When you get $20 off your next order, I get $20 off mine. Win/win!) Need more views & opinions before trying it out? Mosaic Reviews has lots to choose from. I say, give it a try if you like making great meals from tried-and-true recipes, but don’t have tons of time to create. Or shop.

Executive Chef Hector Colon Shares Recipe from SeaWorld

Executive Chef Hector Colon SeaWorld OrlandoJulia Child would have been 100 years old today. Her inspiration in the kitchen cannot be underestimated. As I think of how much fun it is to watch and learn from the original “iron (lady) chef,” I’m reminded of various dishes I’ve had recently that were spectacular—ones SHE might have enjoyed, too.

This dish was served at a special event at SeaWorld Orlando recently at Ports of Call. Duck Confit over Wild Mushroom Grits. The Executive Chef, Hector Colon, was kind enough to share!

Here are the recipes:

Duck Confit


4 lbs duck legs
1 tbsp kosher salt
.5 teaspoon ground black pepper
10 whole garlic cloves*
4 bay leaves*
4 sprigs fresh thyme*
1.5 teaspoons whole black peppercorn
.5 teaspoon table salt
4 cups olive oil

*for each leg portion


Lay 2 leg portions on a platter, skin side down. Sprinkle on the 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and ground pepper. Place the garlic, bay leaf and thyme on each of leg portion. Lay the remaining 2 leg portions flesh to flesh on top. Put reserved fat from the duck** in the bottom of container. Sprinkle with the remaining kosher salt cover and refrigerated for 12 hours.

**Note from SWM: If you haven’t prepared the duck, you can buy duck fat at your local butcher shop. BTW, it’s amazing rubbed on potatoes in the oven….

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F

Remove duck from pan. In a hot sauté pan sear the duck until golden brown then place back in the pan with all the spices and cover with olive oil and bake for 12 to 14 hours.

Cool down and pull the meat from the leg and sauté as desired.

Wild Mushroom Grits, Serves 4


3 slices raw bacon
10 medium-sized shiitake mushroom, sliced
10 medium-sized bottom mushroom, sliced
.25 tsp chopped rosemary
4 leaves fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp garlic, chopped
4 tbsp white wine
1 cup grits
2 cups milk whole
6 oz chicken stock
6 oz heavy cream
2 tbsp butter
Salt and white pepper to taste


In a medium sauce pan add bacon cook until crispy. Add butter and condiments, plus all the sliced mushrooms and cook until tender.

Add cream, milk and stock. Bring to a boil. Add grits and cook on low heat until tender, adjust flavor using salt and white pepper.


While Executive Chef Hector Colon may not have been channeling Ms Child, his Duck Confit over Wild Mushroom Grits is one of the tastiest things I’ve ever put in my mouth. It makes me drool to think of it, even now, just as I often do reading over Julia’s recipes. Did you #cookforjulia today?

Note: This recipe is reminiscent of her “goose confit,” though I am a simple home chef, so feel free to contradict.