Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Orlando (FL) Food and Wine Trail

In my recent post on the Orlando food and wine terroir, I introduced the concept of a food and wine area (FWA). While riffing from the American Viticultural Area (AVA) concept, this differs in that it is a consumption (rather than a growing) region. The figure below shows the Orlando FWA which follows the course of Interstate 4 as it wends its way from Daytona Beach in the northeast to Tampa in the southwest. The northernmost reach of the FWA is Deland-New Smyrna Beach while its southernmost extent is Tampa in Hillsborough County.

Within the broader FSA, there are a number of sub-zones each of which may contain one or more food establishment, wine establishment, or food and wine establishment. In the figure below, there is significant sub-zone pooling between Lake Mary and Celebration and significant spacing between that core and the northern and southern extremes.

The figure below illustrates, by sub-zone, the restaurants and wine bars that I believe capture the essence of Orlando as a food and wine destination. Tampa, and its restaurants, are included in this list because it is only 1 hour away and we travel there regularly to enjoy the fine fare offered at its establishments.

The table below lists the restaurants alphabetically along with their cuisine types and links to their websites. Of the cuisine styles, steakhouses are the most dominant with fully eight restaurants self-identifying as such. Italian (5) and American (4) are the next most popular cuisine styles.

Web Site
Aged Steaks
Bohemian Hotel -Celebration
Spanish Steakhouse
Capital Grille
Chatham’s Place
Fine Dining
Steak and Lobster
Cress Restaurant
Globally Inspired
Del Frisco Double Eagle
Eddie V’s
Prime Seafood
F&D Kitchen & Bar
Highball & Harvest
Kabooki Sushi
Casual American
Mise en Place
Modern American
Morimoto Asia
New World
Regional Italian
Ruth’s Chris
Spanish River Grill
Small Plates
Spanish Latino Fusion
The Ravenous Pig
Victoria & Albert’s
Modern American
Steak and Fine Dining

I need to reiterate that this restaurant list is based on my favorites and probably reflects my wine preferences. The steak offerings would pair well with my Bordeaux and Napa wines while my Italian collection is at home in Enzo's, Peperoncino, and the like.

Of the steakhouses, Bern's aged meats are legendary and a meal at the restaurant is incomplete without a tour of the meat aging room, the kitchen, and the wine cellar. Do not leave without doing dessert. I have captured one of my many great Bern's experiences in the following post ( The 50,000 or so wines in the cellar are a legacy of the yeoman collecting effort by the restaurant's founder and is the raison d'etre for many a cross-country trip to the locale.

All of the other mentioned steakhouses will meet and exceed your expectations in terms of the quality of the food, level of service, and wine list. Capa is relatively new but has established a strong foothold with its tapas-inspired small plates and robust steaks. It also has an excellent wine list which was honchoed by Jill Davis as Sommelier before she left for Del Frisco's Double Eagle. I have eaten at the Del Frisco Double Eagle once in a pre-opening affair so have not yet rated its food. The wine offering is a stupendous 10,000 bottles which are attractively stored and displayed throughout the restaurant.

Other than Bern's, the restaurants I enjoy going to most are Victoria & Albert's, Cress Restaurant, Luma, Eddie V's, Norman's, Morimoto Asia, and Mise en Place. Of these, Morimoto Asia is the newest. Eddie V's is a member of the Darden chain but do not be fooled by this fact. Both the menu and wine list are extensive and of extremely high quality. As is the actual food. The environment is also extremely pleasing to the eye. This is probably the third or fourth best restaurant in the FWA.

Victoria & Albert's continues to roll along as a bastion of high-end fine dining even in the face of declining support for this style among area restaurants and patrons. The Chef (Scott Hunnell) is one of the most respected in Orlando and a a seat at his table was second only to season tickets at Lambeau Field in desirability. Disney has since amended its policy such that you have to be staying at the Grand Floridian in order to buy out the table. That was a bummer but we can still dine at the Queen Victoria Room and get the same menu as is being served at the Chef's Table. The problem is that a max of 16 people are so accommodated. Some of my experiences at V&A are captured in the following posts ( and

The most interesting tastes grace your palate when you pay a visit to Cress Restaurant. Chef Hari Pulapaka (a math professor by day) and his wife Jenneffer (a Podiatrist by day) have created a treasure in the far reaches of the FSA; but it is worth the bother. These folks, along with Bill Budzinskifrom the Elusive Grape (the wine bar across the street), have given us something to look forward to every time we launch in their direction. Some stories about these two locations follow.

The Elusive Grape

Cress Restaurant

Well the stories can go on and on but I think the point has been made. Right @marcygordon? Orlando is far from a foodie wasteland.

Last updated 12/1/15

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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