The past several weeks have been laden with several instances where my wife and I were able to get out of the house and nab some really great food. What you will find in this post is a very long (probably) very picturey (definitely) and make you want to eat at these places (certainly.) The first thing I would like you show you is my homemade burger of epicness. Now, I am aware that by now you should all know how much I love burgers. I took these burgers to a new extreme. Let’s discuss, shall we?
Exhibit A. With the exception of the Vermont Sharp Cheddar cheese, everything in this picture is homemade. Carmamelized onion brioche bun, lightly buttered and lightly grilled. Roasted garlic aioli, which you can’t see because it’s on the underside of the bun. Homemade bacon, from scratch (I don’t think I’ve covered this since I started (with the exception of my vlog I posted) but yeah… i’m curing my own bacon now.) Under the bacon is some caramelized onions. The aforementioned Cheddar cheese. A 6-ounce hamburger patty about 70% lean. And handcut, twice fried French fries. This burger was big, messy, and delicious. Now I realize that I probably won’t be making buns for my hamburgers ever again, or at least not often. It was fairly labor and time intensive, but I did learn a few things about making brioche. That said, I finally got to use some of my caramelized onions that I have been holding on to. I caramelized about 3 pounds of onions a few weeks back in one big batch. Took about 3 hours, and I stashed them in the freezer for future use. Like on this burger! As much as I’d like to continue writing about this masterpiece, there are many other foods that I must talk about. For example…
Exhibit B. Grilled NY Strip steak. Farro Salad with butternut squash and feta. Grilled asparagus with red onion. This was a darn fine meal I made a few nights back. I think what made it doubly good is that this came at the end of a week where we were pretty much eating out every night. I bought the farro at Whole Foods awhile back and just never got around to cooking it. If you don’t know what it is, it’s a whole grain, very good for you, and pretty versatile. It’s almost like brown rice, but not as chewy. This salad was chock full of roasted butternut squash (which had been tossed with some balsamic vinegar and olive oil,) topped with feta cheese and finished with a little extra virgin olive oil. The cheese really gave it a nice punch of funk (for lack of a better term) and the fruitiness of the oil was just prominent enough to be effective but not overbearing. The asparagus was grilled simply in my grilling saute pan with the onions, tossed in oil and salt & pepper. The result was extremely fragrant, and really, really quite good. I was really surprised here since the asparagus kinda tasted like other stuff had been added to it, but it wasn’t. The steak was seasoned simply with kosher salt and black pepper. Grilled to (an obvious) medium-rare, it borderlined on what my wife was willing to eat. Had it been a touch redder, I would have been forced to eat it for her. NY Strip isn’t usually my favorite cut, but when cooked properly, the results are definitely tasty. That concludes the homemade portion of today’s program. Let’s jump to the restaurant foods, shall we?
Exhibit C. This is the bread plate from a local gem of a restaurant: K Restaurant and Wine Bar. The bread was very good. Warm, slightly crusty and soft on the inside. The bread shouldn’t be the focal point here. Oh no. Don’t be fooled by it’s beautiful exterior. What was really the show-stopper here was the butter. Holy crap the butter. Blue cheese butter with something something sweet. I could not for the life of me put my finger on it. Was it honey? Brown sugar? Both?! I have no idea, but all I know is that I wanted more. A lot more. I wanted to melt it down, clone it and reconstitute it. Anyway, it was great, and really set the tone for the rest of the meal.
Exhibit D. A Caesar salad. Not too terribly much to go on here. A very well-executed salad. The dressing was tangy, slightly creamy. The croutons were crunchy and slightly peppery. The parmesan cheese was funky and salty. All components to make a great dish. Oh, and the lettuce was really fresh too, which makes a big difference. NOT pictured however, was my wife’s salad. It was awesome. It was more of a house-style salad, but with a bacon vinaigrette. It really was phenomenal. I will admit proudly that I wish I would have ordered that instead. Luckily, she doesn’t eat tomatoes, so she gave a bunch to me, and they were soaked with the dressing.
Exhibit E. Meeeeaaaaatttt. I love steak like zombies love brains and this steak was an Albert Einstein. Wait. Did I really just say that? Yes. Yes I did. Looking at this picture evokes such strong taste recollection for me, it’s insane. But anyway; it’s a filet mignon, topped with smoked bleu cheese, sitting atop a pillow of potato gratin, swimming in a cabernet demi sauce infused with truffle. The flower was quickly removed and steak delved in to like I was a ravenous pig. If pigs ate beef, that is. The steak is dusted on the outside with dried mushroom powder, that crusts up real nice on the flattop they use to cook it on. The cheese was nice and tangy, slightly smokey. The sauce. Oh the sauce. If I could just bottle up the sauce and the butter from the bread, my life would be complete. Almost, anyway…I’m still young, ya know? The potato gratin was slightly dense, but soaked up SO much of the sauce, it was unreal. In the bites where I got everything together, it was harmony.
Just kidding. This was actually a very nice plate of pasta. Penne a la Vodka with Italian Sausage. She’s had this dish before at a real Italian restaurant and loves it there. I would judge that she didn’t love this one AS much as the other, but it was still good. A nice creamy, tomato-y vodka sauce with the punch of Italian sausage. The really nice thing about this dish was that it packed some heat. No, it did not pull a gun on us. There was a touch of cayenne or something in there that gave it another dimension instead of being just “good.” It was “good” and “spicy.”
The last image I have from K Restaurant isn’t actually an image. We dug into our dessert with such reckless abandon that I neglected to take a picture of it. Which is a darn shame because it actually boggled my mind. Imagine this, if you will: A chocolate lava cake, dusted with powdered sugar, with a nice pillow of vanilla bean ice cream to the side. Now imagine this, and this is the part that boggled my mind: the cake was dense AND light AT THE SAME TIME. How do they do it?! Each bite was heavy on the tongue, but disappeared once you swallow it. It was absolutely incredible. If I could ever learn how to make that cake…I will be a lot heavier of a person that’s for sure. But since I don’t have a picture to go on right now, I’ll leave it at that.
Moving on to the next (and final) restaurant that we went to. Luma on Park is a nice restaurant in a nice part of town. The food is elegant, and I will preface that it was very dark in the restaurant and the pictures didn’t come out nearly as well as they should have. I accidently used the flash a few times (and properly got scolded by my wife), and that just brought attention to us and made the food look kinda neon. But enough preface. Except for one more. In September, many of Orlando’s finest restaurants participate in what they call Magical Dining Month. It’s where you order off a selected menu and get a three-course meal for a highly affordable price. So, with the pictures here, I will group them by course and talk about them like that.
On the left, we have a poorly lit picture of my Lobster Hush Puppies, and on the right: A slightly better picture of my wife’s Onion-Cauliflower Soup. Let me talk about the soup first. It was magical. My wife doesn’t like onions OR cauliflower all that much (mostly a texture thing), but by the end of this course, I had to dissuade her from licking the plate. Yes, it was that good. Pureed and strained in such a way that it was super smooth, not a lump or clump in sight. My hush puppies were excellent as well. Even if better lit, they were not much to look at. Nice crunchy balls of lobster and breading, sitting atop a tartar sauce of sorts and a nice acidic salad on top. With these two dishes alone, I knew that this place meant business, and our taste buds were gonna be taken for a ride.
Left: Gulf Cobia, with sauteed mushrooms, black lentils and lemon butter. Right: Pork schnitzle with onion marmelade, spinach salad, sauces and other delicious things. First, my dish, the fish. I’d never had cobia before this night. A very subtle, sweet white-fleshed fish that I would recommend to anyone who doesn’t like fish. It was flaky and perfectly cooked. The lentils were killer too. Drenched in the lemon butter, there were slivers of zucchini in there too. All elements really worked together very nicely and this was very pleasant to eat. My wife got the pork. I really hate it when she orders stuff that is better than mine, and this was a close call. The pork was perfectly (and I mean PERFECTLY) breaded and pan-fried. It was crisp, and the pork inside was tender, juicy and awesome. The sauces were a perfect compliment to the pork and surrounding items. The onion marmalade was sweet and slightly acidic, perfect match for everything else. Of course, by this time, my wife was wondering out loud how she could jump into the kitchen and steal a bucket of the soup.
Left: Buttermilk Panna Cotta with nectarines. Right: Devil’s Food Cake with vanilla bean ice cream, chocolate ganache and salted caramel. Both of these desserts were divine in their own way. My panna cotta was everything that it should be, and better. It was more like a vanilla buttermilk, but not so buttermilky that made it gross. Perfect texture, and there was a crumble of sorts on the plate which helped give some contrast. The nectarines were fresh and crisp, with a hint of sugar on them. The devil’s food was also fantastic. Slightly dense, chocolate cake with a rich ganache on top. The ice cream was a perfect blend of cream and vanilla. And the caramel smear on the plate…While small in quantity was HUGE in the flavor department; it was actually kinda hard to eat by itself.
So there you have it. A HUGE update in my goings-on in my dining life. I hope you found this to be mouth-watering and possibly informative in some shape or form. Until next time ..Stay positive, love your life, and play with your food 🙂