Archive for March, 2013

Nailed it.

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

Winter Park is home to a relatively large collection of restaurants and stores. The Ravenous Pig is an unassuming little place down Orange Avenue, surrounded by office buildings, medical supply stores and banks. As we drove past, I assumed (largely because of the name) that it was  barbecue restaurant. We turned around and parked, and I was ready for some ribs or BBQ chicken. I wasn’t disappointed to find out that not only was it NOT a BBQ restaurant, but it was the best restaurant experience I have ever had the pleasure of enduring.

If you google “best restaurants in Orlando,” I guarantee you’ll see the Ravenous Pig among the first results. We stepped into the entrance, and were immediately greeted by a horde of attractive smiling females. Despite the lack of a reservation, they escorted us to a two-top about three steps from the front door. The poor lady looked apologetic, but we were abashed by not having reservations, so we were even. The sad moment gave way to a hearty greeting from Alex, who immediately offered us the most tantalizing sounding cocktails. I wasn’t in the mood for drinkin’, so I ordered an Unsweet Iced Tea. Man Biscuit has a theory that the quality of the servers in a restaurant is equal to the freshness of their iced tea.

I sipped my incredibly fresh tea and looked around. There were antiqued tiles on the ceiling and demure bare bulbs hanging down over the tables. The filaments in the bulbs glowed brightly, but not enough to hurt our eyes. There was some obscure metal art on the walls, butcher paper on the tables and not much else. I decided since the décor wasn’t seriously whacky, then the food must be the real art. As our foie gras arrived, I knew that was the case. Centered in a vast circular plate, two pieces of goose liver sat unceremoniously  steaming. Man Biscuit cut into it carefully and divvied out the goods.

As my tongue touched the liver, bread and slivers of fresh Plant City strawberries, a tear trickled from my eye. The flavor leapt from the fork and pierced my heart. Glorious fat, sweet and tart fruit and spongy bread mingled in a slow dance of perfection as the bite literally melted in my mouth. I was blown away. The sear was crisp, the foie gras was light and airy – it was like no liver I have ever tasted. Sheer perfection.  The only complaint I can muster, is that I would have eaten twice again as much.

For my meal, I ordered the most expensive thing on the menu. At a whopping $34, I was nervous about my selection. There was a perfectly delicious sounding hamburger for only $13. I don’t care. If there’s a menu with lamb on it, I have to order it. It’s a personal rule. So, I bit the bullet, and orered the Ellensburg Lamb Noisette. When it arrived, I marveled in the beauty of the dish. It was plated carefully, with perfect circles of sous-vide lamb, surrounded in lamb belly. I cut into it, with some difficulty, but after the initial workout I had a piece of lamb with fat together. The fat belly was seared perfectly, and the sous-vide lamb was tender.  The flavors mingled with the spring onion puree and lamb jus like old friends. The various kohlrabi, nigella and royal trumped mushrooms were cooked with precision and care, seasoned well and pleasant spots of color and flavor on the plate. The Nettle dumpling was a bit bland at first, but once I chewed through the nettles, the flavor brightened. A crumb-like seasoning dotted the plate, and once dipped provided a sweetness not unlike brown sugar that added some depth to all flavors on the plate. It was a decidedly heroic dish.

I must not forget to mention the truffle fries (which come with the burger, but dammit, we wanted to try them.) They were small string fries, lightly salted and flavored with truffle oil. They were just damn tasty.

The Ravenous Pig is a clear winner in the race to the top of Orlando Restaurants, and they proved that with a delectable dessert that finished off a near-perfect meal. I ordered the pistachio cake, complete with a blackberry sorbet. The sorbet was rich, dark and mysterious. The flavor bounced around the sprigs of mint and berry drizzle that drew your eye to a lovely layered cake. The cake was soft and moist, in two small slabs that surrounded a light and sweet honey mascarpone.


Each dish was treated with experience and an artful flare. Chef/Owners James & Julie Petrakis should be proud of their fare. I’m so glad it wasn’t just a BBQ joint.


Despicable, Ravenous Me

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

Applecheeks and I have been to this area of town a few times. Having driven past a name like “The Ravenous Pig” it tends to pique one’s interest. Especially if one is as interested in food as we are, I believe you cannot have the word pig in your restaurant unless you have the skill to back it up with fantastic food. The Ravenous Pig did NOT disappoint.

It was a Sunday so we had to park a bit away. It was a nice day and we wouldn’t balk at a walk. The entrance has a small, non-fenced in, patio area for those who prefer to eat outside. You step in and are instantly standing at a host stand. When they asked if we had a reservation, I thought “my only reservation is about eating at places that require them” sadly, I could only sputter out “Uhh, no… Can we still eat here?” Turns out they had a table for two, right next to the front.

The place is decorated like a combination pub meets art gallery. The table was decorated with butcher paper, 2 presumptuous wine glasses, Salt & Pepper grinders, flatware and a sugar caddy. The lighting was fairly intimate. It definitely had a good date night feel.

Our server greeted us, his name was Alex. He asked if we had dined here before and discovering it was our first time, he began telling us a bit about the restaurant (like that they only use local ingredients and whatnot), he took us through a tour of the cocktails and beer menu. The first thing he pointed at struck me like a slap to the face.

The Ravenous Pig Old Fashioned.

First let us take a look at a “normal” Old Fashioned: Bourbon Whisky, dash of bitters, some kind of sweetener (usually a teaspoon of sugar), a maraschino cherry, and orange wedge on ice.

The Ravenous Pig Old Fashioned: Bacon infused buffalo trace bourbon, vanilla maple syrup and angostura orange (orange cocktail bitters).

So, what they have done is take bourbon, which gets much of its flavor from the ageing process, in which it sits in a white oak barrel that has been charred on the inside allowing the alcohol to absorb some of those flavors. Imitation vanilla is made from taking wood and soaking it an alcohol. What they’ve done is take the sweetener, and nod at Bourbon twice over by giving you vanilla a flavor component in the bourbon and giving you maple given to us by the sweetest of trees. What I’m trying to say is that it was delicious. The crispy bacon garnish was just the icing on the pork.

Time to order an appetizer.  Applecheeks and I have never before had Foie Gras. I knew a bit of what to expect thanks to years of food network and travel channel. Let me tell you… if you think you know what it tastes like, you’re wrong. Its SO MUCH BETTER. Or rather it can be.

The Foie Gras (pronounced Fraw Grwah) is goose liver. I know how it’s been made for the past 2300 years, but there are slightly more humane ways of producing it. And outside of France, you’re allowed to call “fatty goose liver” “Foie gras”, if it’s been made slightly more humanely. I didn’t think to ask about how it was produced while I was there.

It was prepared by searing and placed on zucchini bread, then topped with plant city strawberries, rhubarb, vanilla granola and crispy ginger. Imagine biting into a big, fat piece of fried chicken. There is a moment where the chicken fat explodes into your mouth and its succulent and rich… that taste is a hint of what Foie Gras tastes like. Pairing it with the tart and sweet strawberries and rhubarb, it was simply amazing.

For my Main course, I couldn’t decide. It was difficult because the Pub Burger, which I’m sure, is delicious but I wanted something more adventurous, came with truffle fries. That sounds delicious damnit! Alex suggested I get a side of fries for us to share and pointed out the Pork Porterhouse. So that is what I did. The Pork Porterhouse is humorously named as it is literally the pork equivalent to a beef porterhouse steak. It was every bit as large and juicy as I’d hoped. In spite of it’s thickness, the pork was grilled to perfection. It was topped with a peach Mostarda (a itallian condiment made of candied fruit and mustard flavored syrup) and a peache tea gastrique. (A gastrique is a sauce, often thick and made from a reduction of something sweet and includes vinegar, in this case, peach tea.) I was completely satisfied with this dish, it delivered on flavor, texture and was juicy! It came with a side of fingerling potatoes, tossed with sherry and shallots, I couldn’t determine all of the ingredients but I found out there were tasty little cubes that went great with the small fingerlings, the little spicy cubes were actually Kohlrabi. (Kohlrabi is a German turnip; it grows underground and has big leafy protrusions on top.) I would totally recommend this dish, especially if you’re hungry. That was a lot of meat…

For dessert, I looked at the menu and something looked right back at me… the words MALT and STOUT. It was the “Cake and Ice Cream” Which was served as three small chocolate stout cupcakes, topped with a caramel butter cream (not manly to say but they were adorable). These things had a delightful chew, a strong chocolate flavor with a slightly smaller stout reminder. The ice cream portion of this dish was in the form of a milkshake. The small glass contained a stout-malt milkshake and it couldn’t be described better. If you like malt (like the middle of whoppers candy) you’re going to dig this dessert. I’m only a mild fan of the dark, stout beers but something about it’s pairing with ice cream is just fantastic.

Basically, this is the best restaurant at which I’ve had the joy to eat. Sadly, the glorious food and service does not come cheap. They do offer a lunch menu, so if you’re cheap or want to pretend like you’re rich, I’d say take your girl here during lunch hours. Otherwise, I would say, if you can afford it, this place is most definitely worth the price.

No sisters of mine.

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

The Three Sisters sounds like a witchy, eclectic getaway run by wild women with no need for men, laws or common decency. I expected to see skirt flipping, bottle throwing and feminine passion. It was not any of these things, and I was disappointed. Preconceptions of the title aside, it was still a neat looking place. Downtown Kissimmee isn’t yet well known for interesting restaurants. The best we could get was old Joanie’s diner, where you were lucky if you could get more than one type of vegetable for your side-dish. That being said, we sat down at a high-table and made our orders. The Three Sisters did sport old photos of Kissimmee on the walls, and had a pub-type atmosphere.

I eyed the blackened mahi-mahi sandwich with sweet potato fries. It sounded reasonably delicious, so I went for it. We also got the house chips. I can’t resist house chips. Something about fresh sliced potatoes, versus the poor facsimiles available in bag-form at the store –they’re just a better class of chip. I was disappointed to find out that the chips we received were made earlier in the day. They weren’t even warm. Had they been hot out of the fryer, or even remotely new to this earth, I probably would have enjoyed them. I did not.


When my mahi-mahi sandwich arrived, it was almost acceptable. It was a little zingy, a nice, thick slab of fish, but not really a stand-out dish. The toppings were ordinary and a bit sparse. The tartar sauce was a good, traditional flavor and was well made. I’m guessing it came out of a pre-made jar, but at least they picked a good one.

The fries, however, were quite tasty. Crispy, sweet potatoey and nicely seasoned. The dip wasn’t great- it was bland and overly sweet.


They didn’t have much on tap, so I ordered a bottled beer. It was a raspberry Wheat. The beer was probably the best part of my meal. It was sweet, light, refreshing and tasted like a fine dessert.


Overall, I wasn’t impressed by the Three Sisters. I’m willing to give them another chance, on the possibility that they were having an off-day. The service wasn’t great. Our server seemed more annoyed by our presence than happy to see us. They weren’t terribly busy, the music was too loud and the atmosphere seemed half hooters, half dive bar. Perhaps our expectations were too high, considering the cool name, but this was a restaurant that truly missed the mark.