Saturday, January 29, 2011

Day 2 and # Orlando

This has been a very low key trip which is great because as much as Steve works it's nice to have time just to hang out and be with each other. Steve works from home so you might think we are with each other all the time but that's not how it works. Even on the evenings when we have time to go out he is often answering business calls and emails. It is hard for us to get a break of uninterrupted time.

Yesterday we spent the morning listening to the sales pitch for the Hilton property property where we are staying. The reason we took this trip was we had a great offer from Hilton to come stay at this new vacation club property for next to nothing in return for listen to the sales schpeel and considering buying into the property. Not a bad exchange for a few days in the sun.

We headed back to Anh Hong for lunch yesterday. We shared a green papaya and Vietnamese beef jerky salad and a bowl of pho. Anh Hong is more along the lines of Vietnamese home cooking as opposed to restaurantized food. They don't use MSG in their pho which meant I was able to enjoy a bowl of it without a reaction. If you don't react to MSG it's hard to explain just how frustrating it is to have MSG reactions. I stopped eating pho a few months ago after having a reaction to Superior Pho's broth. I just learned that Bac does not use MSG in their broth and I am looking forward to trying it when we get home. Anyway, one of the highlights of our lunch was the house-made chili sauce. This chili sauce is phenomenal, like maybe my favorite ever. The heat level was fairly tame but the flavor and balance of the sauce were spot on. I liked it so much that I ran next store to the Vietnamese market and bought an inexpensive sauce in a glass jar and the folks at Anh Hong emptied the jar, washed it out and filled it with the chili sauce for me to take home.

After lunch we bummed around a little. We hit the Brazilian bakery we like for cheese puff balls and this wonderful, not too sweet chocolate cake to keep for breakfast this morning. When we got back to the hotel I spent an hour on the treadmill and Steve spent time in the hot tub.

Dinner last night was at the Ravenous Pig. Our friend told us about the RP two years ago and we loved it so much we had dinner there two nights in a row and both still talk about how much we enjoyed it. To tell the truth, yesterday we were so into being lazy we considered not going to the RP. Fortunately, that thought only lasted a few minutes. We had a most wonderful meal of oysters (Onset) served with tiny cubes of a porter gelee and an au point mignonette and stone crab with a perfect mustard, lemon mayonnaise or as the menu said "appropriate sauces". We shared a salad of frisse and other young greens tossed with house smoked lardons, a caesar dressing and topped with a poached egg, a common enough salad but done perfectly at RP. We also shared a house-made pretzel with a Taleggio & Porter fondue and for dinner shared a pasture raised veal chop which was accompanied by a side of slivered trumpet mushrooms with slightly larger than brunoise bits of potato and what was almost like a beurre blanc. As wonderful as the veal chop was the trumpet mushroom accompaniment was the star of the show for me. For dessert we had an incredible butterscotch creme brulee and a glass of Tokai which our server recommended that was not on the current list of offerings. We were surprised and tickled our sever remembered us from our previous visits even though they were two years ago. He took great care of us and it is always nice to see such longevity in the restaurant biz.

This morning we lolled around in bed until noon. That is not something we do at home and it was nice. We had our snacks from the Brazilian bakery for breakfast and I enjoyed my tea with no rush to be anywhere or get anything done. After noon we came down to the pool and here we are, enjoying the sun and the few more degrees of warmth over yesterday.

Tonight we are headed to the Vineyard Grill for dinner. The Vineyard Grill is a steakhouse at the Ritz Carlton. I had dinner there on my own a handful of years ago when Steve was dining with conference folks and we were staying at the JW Marriott/Ritz Carlton property. The following year my uncle happened to be in Orlando for a golf outing the same time we were here and we enjoyed a meal at the Vineyard Grill with him and Steve and I dined there together another year. It is rare for me to enjoy a steakhouse and since Craftsteak closed there isn't a steakhouse I know of that I would go out of my way for other than the Vineyard Grill. Unfortunately, the beef is commercial corn finished beef but Steve likes that from time to time. They also have wonderful raw bar, fish and seafood options and the salads and sides are outstanding. That's why I like this place as much as I do, for the sides. I prefer to throw my own steak on the grill and while I may make a great salad to go with it I don't spend time making things like smoked cream corn or creamed spinach to go with the steak.

Our dinner at Grapevine was wonderful. It was a great date night.

Our last morning was spent lolling around then we packed our bags and hung out at the pool until it was time to leave.

All in all a wonderful time away with my husband.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


I'm trying to live up to my promise to myself to make at least the most basic record of my travels. I'm way behind. I have Italy from last fall to write about and a recent NY trip let alone Mexico from last winter.

I started this blog as a way to help me remember experiences from my travels and I feel like it is especially important now because my memory is not what it used to be. Just today Steve and I were discussing a place and I was 100% positive this place was in Miami while Steve thought there was a chance it was in Orlando. On top of that as we were driving around this evening in Orlando there were things Steve mentioned that I had trouble remembering.

So, even if the entries are brief I'm going to try to be better about making them.

This morning at 9 AM we left an icy cold Cleveland and arrived in sunny Orlando two hours later. Warm Orlando? Not really. It was about 65 degrees this afternoon so not very warm but Steve and I were both happy to see the sun!

From the airport we headed to the Vietnamese part of town for lunch at Lac Viet. This is a place I read about on Chowhound but had not before been to. I was concerned when we drove up and saw a big sign on the sign of the building that read "Voted Best Vietnamese in Orlando" or something to that effect. We thought it was OK but not special. In fact, I would say that of all but one of the dishes we had we prefer the preparations of the same dishes at other Vietnamese restaurants in Detroit. We had one new dish that we have seen but hadn't had before and that was Banh Xeo which is a crispy rice crepe folded like an omelette and filled with bean sprouts, shrimp and pork. I was glad to have tried it but have a feeling it may be better prepared elsewhere.

Before we left Lac Viet we asked our server if there were any places around that served fresh pressed can juice. He directed us to Ahn Hong. On the way there Steve said he thought this was the place I was so thrilled about on a past trip because of their wonderful cane juice with kumquat zest. I was 100% certain that the plce he was talking about was in Miami. Well, when we got to Anh Hong I realized that he was right. My concern about my faltering memory was soothed by a big icy glass of fresh pressed cane juice with kumquat. I love this stuff and even have fleeting moments of thinking about opening a sugar cane bar in Cleveland or anywhere for that matter!

After that we headed to our hotel to check in. We dropped our bags of in the room and headed down to the pool. I was not in to going to the pool in 65 degree weather but Steve really, really wanted to so I joined him. It was chilly! After a little time in the hot tub we returned to our room for a nap.

Dinner this evening was at the Nile Ethiopian restaurant. We've been to this place once before on a previous visit and while neither of us thought it was the best Ethiopian we've ever had we both enjoyed it. Tonight the thought of lentils and veggies instead of a big meal was appealing so the Nile it was.

We had a nice first day here in Orlando.