CFASummer 2014

My favorite question of all-time had to be asked for this page. So this summer I felt like it was time.

So…what would be your last meal  if you faced the chair (or these days a table that involves a long drawn-out procedure)?

I received some fascinating answers, some were very passionate which made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. My last meal would be:

-Massive pile of Chick-fil-A waffle fries

-My homemade grilled ribs (taught to me by my father)

-Burger from a campfire grill

-Jess’ mac and cheese

-Mother’s lasagna

-Mother’s buckeyes

 

With that said, here are some other responses…

JG:

If homemade is allowed … Mashed potatoes, peas, gravy and roast beef. If restaurant, 10 original wings all wings no drums from Duffy’s with a side of fries. For dessert, I want Killer chocolate cake from Toojays and a scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream.

CP:

Chicken fried steak smothered in gravy with really crispy hash browns or tots, LOTS OF ICE CREAM, my favorite Spanish ham jamon serrano and I’m not sure what else…I’d need to see a menu

AS:

There would almost assuredly be baby back ribs or pork spare ribs … I won’t be picky there. I would also require cornbread (or perhaps spoonbread) with honey. A twice-baked potato would go very well with this, as well.

I would definitely need an appetizer or two. Let’s go with buffalo wings and some bacon-wrapped scaollops

I see no need for vegetables, as this will be my last meal

I would like a bottomless mug of throwback (real sugar) Mountain Dew. Again … last meal, who cares about calories?

If I can order dessert, I would go with a crème brulee!

RG:

Combining styles of food here: grilled lobster tail, bbq ribs and some corn.

NB:

Surf N Turf at its finest, steak and lobster tails

Appetizer Trio of the most mouth-watering comfort food – wings, tenders, burger

Desert of ice cream cake

Wash it all down with a big Slurpee

MH:

My last meal would include homemade chicken and noodles, green bean casserole, mac and cheese, turkey, two dill pickles, cauliflower and a handful of blueberries with sweet tea to drink.

For dessert, I’d have a chocolate cake with whipped cream for frosting and strawberries on top.

BY:

Two plates of five flapjacks delivered by Bonnie herself (from Uncle John’s in Toledo)…with maple syrup and a splash of boysenberry.

DR:

Jessica’s incredible meatloaf and green beans with mushrooms.

JSh:

Seafood stuffed lobster with a side of king crab legs, fries and some pizza with bacon, sausage and pepperoni

EB:

I have been pondering over this every time I see your email …..  and its left me perplexed!!  I am not quite sure, out of all my favorite foods, what I would want for my last meal!

It would probably have to be some sort of pasta.  Hand made.  If we’re going with comfort food I’m gonna go with a nice plate of gnocchi (potato pasta) with butter and grated cheese.  ….. and a nice big fat juicy cheeseburger to go with it.  That would be my last meal!

Ok so maybe that was easier than I thought when I finally made myself just think about it! simple but delicious, to me J

JM:

Guac and chips.

My mom’s baked ziti; parmesan garlic mashed potatoes, broccoli salad, and a piece of cedar plank salmon

A chocolate chip cookie in a skillet with some vanilla ice cream on top with caramel and chocolate sauce.

SA:

non-fatty piece of prime ribe with horseradish/sour creme dipping sauce on side

tomato basil soup, extra creamy

shellfish platter – jumbo shrimp, scallops, crab

piece of carrot cake

BOOM…Roasted.

JH:

Home made chicken enchiladas with white rice. Chips and queso (that’s cheese in spanish) from Tijuana Flats.

or

Salad from Olive Garden, Mac & Cheese with salmon from Macaroni Grill with their bread and breadsticks from Olive Garden and alfredo sauce.

JSk:

Just a bowl of Captain Crunch for the road cause I hear the food is way better in heaven.

AB:

Buffalo Wild Wings Asian zing traditional wings.

Joanna:

Ice cream, calamari, lasagna or baked chicken or grilled chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, broccoli and a whole lot of vegetables.

ED:

Jessica’s chicken parmesan, my mom’s fudge sundae pie

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B&B JunctionJuly 2014

When 4Rivers changed locations in Winter Park and something called B&B Junction popped up, I of course became skeptical. Whatever it was, my immediate opinion was that it was going to fail just like me trying not to drool when I sleep. So I ignored it.

That is until I received some sporadic feedback claiming that it actually served up a decent burger. And when LivingSocial offered up a $40 value in food and drinks for just $20, I decided, what the hell.

On a Sunday afternoon, we trekked over and found plenty of parking (unlike when 4Rivers held its ground there) but still no indoor seating on this warm and very muggy July day in Florida. For our deal, we were able to choose two drinks, two sides/starters, two burgers and two desserts. We just had to pay tax as well.

Where the specialty drinks like craft root beer used to be now stood a similar cooler but this time it was filled with craft beer. I went for the Bell’s Oberon Ale, and from the burger menu I decided to go for just the standard offering, the #1. However I noticed the #3 burger had blackened seasoning so I added that along with cheddar cheese to my meat. We also got some fries and chicken tenders as the sides, plus a chocolate chip cookie and a cupcake.

Not a bad deal at all.

And the burger? So money. I ordered mine pink (that’s another difference these days, so many places just say pink or no pink instead of rare, medium, etc. I think it’s because the chefs can’t handle a burger medium well and screw it up so much) and the first bite packed a solid punch. The house sauce looked just like what’s spread on burgers at Big Boy, yet tasted much cleaner and had a nice spicy kick to it.

B&B Junction advertises that its beef is “made from 100% local, sustainable, antibiotic and growth hormone free grass-fed beef … served on a brioche bun.” It certainly does not taste like the beef at the supermarket that’s for sure. Every bite delivered what I needed.

Top five in Orlando? For now, definitely. I need to try it one more time to know for sure. However, the bison burger might be up next for me here.

The only issue I had, besides the non-indoor seating, was that the chicken tenders were pretty bland. They looked good, but the batter needed some seasoning.

On the drive home we turned by Johnny’s Filling Station, a place I’ve always wanted to try. On the outside wall, it said it had Orlando’s best burger. We’ll see about that soon.

Burger USummer 2014

Situated on the UCF campus where the rent is high and foot traffic on normal days can be minimal, Burger U became yet another burger joint in the area. At first places like BurgerFi and Five Guys were all the talk in Orlando (based on my own personal mind), and national stories were running on how burger joints are perfect given the American economy at the time.

So even more burger spots have opened up, and while I appreciate a good meat sandwich, the market is inundated with places like Burger 21, BurgerFi, Five Guys, Burger & Beer Joint, B&B Junction, Beth’s Burger Bar, Burger Bar and so much more.

Burger U is in that category. New to the campus scene, it offers a similar setup to its previous tenant, Tailgaters, as it has a nice little bar, outdoor seating and TVs everywhere. The good thing for Burger U is that it is more focused on its food rather than the beer (when most of the population living near you is under 21 and you’re on a college campus, the beer selection should definitely take a back seat).

Maybe it is because I’ve tried a bunch of burgers lately or that I was more focused on the United States’ World Cup match on the tube, the angus burger with cheddar cheese I ordered up did not hit the spot. Add to it the garlic fries and I immediately began having heartburn. Everything was very greasy, especially the fries. The good part was that the cost of the burger alone was only about $5.

I did have a sample of regular fries from a friend and they were much better, so that did help my attitude. But my desire to try another burger is not very strong. However, even though food is first and foremost here, the adult beverage selections were pretty desirable.

Cask and LarderSummer 2014

First of all, I am not a big fan of Winter Park because it serves those who are above the lower-middle class like me. However, there are some fine establishments offering killer menu items, and splurging is not a bad thing if done properly.

One of these joints is Cask & Larder. Get rid of that dinner menu which features words like “sunburst trout” and “redeye hanger” and give me that late-night option. With only four entrees to choose from, I certainly approve, especially of the Comeback Burger.

For $12, one acquires a double pork burger with bacon, cheddar, pickle (gross), comeback sauce (smooth) and beer battered onion rings (gross) on a toasted bun all with a side of barbecue-spiced fries served in a modern-style cup outlined by a wine menu.

One bite and all the flavors hit me at once. Will the enjoyable taste persist, or just get bland after awhile? A few more shoves into my mouth and I kept wanting more, if only my stomach would have allowed it. The kitchen cooked it to perfection and the seasoning was just right.

It’s upsetting to know that this burger is only available after dinner hours, but maybe that’s what made this feel special. Or maybe it was the $3 house beers they offered late night as well. Either way I need another go at this one in order to rank this as one of the best burgers in Orlando.

(Mediocre shout out to Doug Richards for the recommendation)

Fat Heads

June 2014

Finding a great dining location in the Cleveland area is a rather simple chore. However it is also quite a task due to the vast number of places to get fat quickly.

After I visited the Melt Bar and Grilled for my annual burger and discovering that it is no longer on the menu while it also does not grill the meat anymore, I was on the hunt to find a new favorite eatery. And I found a couple of them.

I trekked to a couple of places in Ohio City just west of downtown and Town Hall really impressed me. But the next day I found myself inside the walls of Fat Head’s Brewery and Saloon in the west suburbs of Cleveland. Maneuvering around brew masters to get to the table, Fat Head’s featured a very roomy atmosphere with plenty of space to sit and relax, play pool, test your skills at darts, try a few of their house-made craft beers or simply watch a game.

The one thing I could not figure out was what to order. I have never appreciated long, huge menus. Until now.

Burgers, ribs, wings, sandwiches, subs, pizza, out of controlness. And upon gazing at others’ plates, the helpings were massive. So I settled on Matt’s Chicken Dance, a chargrilled chicken breast coated in spicy-parm sauce, topped with an over-easy egg, sharp cheddar and hot pepper mayo. It included house-cut chips for $10.99.

Fat Heads2And what a mess it became. It started smooth but then provided a great texture from the egg and then a steamy finish with the spicy kick. Every bite proved magnificent. The chips were just alright, and I discovered the fries were a better way to go.

For adult beverages, all of their beers come with great pairing combinations. And based on the walls they have won a lot of awards for their concoctions, which I could give a damn because I do not want others to tell me what’s good. I will decide for myself if it’s legit.

My next trip to Cleveland will definitely include a return visit. And I cannot wait.

BrocatosSpring 2014

Sometimes I wonder why I do not know the Gulf Coast of Florida better than I should. I am certainly familiar with perfect eating establishments in Pass-a-Grille and how driving back from a Tampa Bay Rays game is like receiving a wedgie for 2.5 straight hours. But that’s about it.

So when I was introduced to Brocato’s Sandwich Shop in Tampa, I immediately removed my wedgie and stretched out my belly. Located very close to downtown and in a stretch that really featured nothing exciting, the place was packed. I mean, to the point where it felt like I was in some outfield bleachers during a home-run derby.

Even though moving inside Brocato’s was next to impossible, the lively walls were decorated beyond belief, which helped me pass the time. Noticing that it advertised itself as having the “Best Devil Crabs in Town,” I elected for a ham and cheese sandwich simply because it looked phenomenal. And I got it with extra cheese and mayo.

It’s difficult to ruin a sub sandwich. I believe Firehouse subs may be the worst, and Subway never fills me up, but beside that I certainly prefer local eateries. And when my name was called at Brocato’s I snatched my bag and headed out the door to a trailer-like barn filled with tables. When I opened up my selection, I immediately became disappointed.

BrocatosMy ham and cheese sub was not located in the bag, but instead I had a devil crab, some other weird object and a messy sandwich that still looked scrumptious. I returned and stood at a counter, watching as a massive amount of employees were either playing with dough, building sandwiches or yelling out orders. It was chaos. I managed to flag down a manager who was very apologetic and said I could keep what I had, and he provided me with my sandwich and a couple bags of chips if I wanted. A great way to show hospitality amid so much organized confusion.

And the sandwich hit the spot, providing a very hearty meal that I struggled to finish. And everyone around us was inhaling their lunches as if they were pigs around a trough.

What makes a good sub is the bread itself. Sometimes the simplest can be better, and when you add on a boatload of options like ribeye steak, buffalo chicken and roast pork, there are plenty of choices at Brocato’s. Combining solid food with an interesting experience makes this a must-see place to chow down in Tampa.

If continuing on to St. Pete, might as well finish the day at Ferg’s since the one in downtown Orlando STILL isn’t open.

Marlows TavernSpring 2014

I always wonder how many great restaurants are out there in Orlando that I have never heard of before. Marlow’s Tavern was next on that list. Invited by a couple of friends, Jess and I traveled over to Winter Park completely unsure of what to expect.

Pulling up to the establishment, I quickly became confused. The structure looked like an old Burger King with a built-out layer in the front for relaxing and music. All that was missing was a playplace. But in the parking lot were plenty of high-end wheels including a six-figure machine next to us. After banging my car door into theirs (I really didn’t but I wanted to), we stepped out and found ourselves in a calming environment with a cozy bar area and patrons collapsed in comfy seats.

Finding a booth that fit all six of us, I desired an adult beverage, only this appeared to be a joint where a Bud Light would cost $6. Thankfully, a 16oz can of PBR was on the way and I could focus on the task at hand: what should I order up for my grouchy belly.

And there it was. The Royale with Cheese. With one of my favorite movies being Pulp Fiction, I had to go for it. I do realize several establishments now have this on its menu, but I have never actually ordered one. Time to put an end to this drought.

“Waygu beef seared perfectly and stacked with American cheese, pickles and buttery brioche.” Get rid of those darn pickles and we have ourselves a burger! It arrived elegantly in front of me and I wasted only 2.3 seconds before it entered my face.

Struggling to label the burger, it certainly pleased me only not to the extent I thought it would. I failed to finish it not because it tasted bad, I just felt like my heart did not want it anymore. The grease and fat seemed to build up quickly in my system so I said, “No mas,” and took in the good vibes this place offered instead.

I probably will turn away from the burger during my next visit, but I do recommend for burger lovers to give one of them a try at Marlow’s. I can easily see how they could achieve a nice little following.