Bosphorous

On Sunday evening, I met a friend at Bosphorous, the beautiful Turkish restaurant on Park Avenue in Winter Park.  (https://www.bosphorousrestaurant.com/)  It is one of my favorite restaurants in Orlando, and it never disappoints.  This time was no exception.

My friend had never been there before; I suggested it because she is vegetarian, and other vegetarian friends I’ve brought there thought they died and went to heaven, with all the delicious options to choose from.

We shared the mixed appetizer platter with puffy lavas bread, which is almost a requirement when you eat there.  The soft, pita-like bread will arrive at your table puffed up with hot air, and you need to pierce it with fork tines to deflate it to avoid being burned.  Then rip off pieces and go to town with the cool, refreshing dips in the platter.
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I have said that everything tastes better in sandwich or dip form, and these dips are among the finest around.  The platter also comes with one of Bosphorous’ stuffed grape leaves, sliced in two, and a few kalamata olives and cornichons (tiny pickles, which I love, even though I’m normally not big on pickles).  You have to order the lavas bread separately, but you’ll regret it if you don’t!
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One of my favorites is the savory tomato and sauteed eggplant dip called soslu patlican.  I could eat a whole jar of that stuff in no time.  I should really learn how to make it myself!  The platter also includes babaganoush (smoked eggplant dip), tabbuli (similar to couscous), ezme (a spicy salsa-like dip with tomatoes, onions, jalapenos and other peppers, and walnuts), and haydari (a thick, creamy yogurt dip with walnuts).

My absolute favorite, which my wife loves too, is taramosalata, which is a creamy, salty, fish roe concoction.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t included this time, replaced with a thin, creamy dip called cacik, with yogurt, cucumber, mint, and dill.   (My brilliant brother, one of my most loyal readers, suggested cacik might be etymologically related to the similar Greek yogurt sauce tzatziki, and he’s probably right!)  I guess without the taramosalata, the whole platter is vegetarian, so that makes some sense.  It doesn’t even seem to be on the menu anymore!

If you don’t want to spring for the whole platter, you can always order any of these dips separately, but for first-time diners, I strongly recommend trying them all, so you can pick out the ones you like best.  My least-favorite is the hummus, because it’s just plain hummus, which I eat all the time.  I wonder if they let you mix and match.  It never occurred to me to ask!

While my wife and I usually share the mixed appetizer platter and an order of doner kebap (similar to gyro meat, and served on a bed of rich and buttery rice pilaf, perfect for wrapping up in the lavas bread), this time I tried something new to me: the lahmacun, which is like Turkish pizza — flatbreads that were at once both crispy and soft, covered with ground lamb in a piquant sauce.  It comes accompanied by shredded, pickled red cabbage, beets, and red onions (love it!), plus some mixed greens and sliced tomatoes.  You put the vegetables on the lahmacun half-moons, pour on a little of the incredible vinaigrette dressing, fold it, and eat it like a sandwich.  I loved it.

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My friend ordered the spinach and feta pide, a pastry “boat” that was warm and soft, stuffed with sauteed spinach and melty, cheesy goodness, topped with sliced tomatoes.  She was suitably impressed.

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Unfortunately, my wife was down for the count with a migraine to end all migraines, which is the only reason she didn’t join us for dinner.  But I ordered another mixed appetizer platter and a whole lavas bread to bring home to her, which she appreciated.  (Except they forgot the stuffed grape leaves on this one — First World Problems Alert!)  This is one of the ways you make a marriage work, you guys.

Buttermilk Bakery

This morning, my wife wanted croissants, and I agreed they sounded good.  But we couldn’t get ourselves out of bed at a reasonable time to go out, and I was plagued by nightmares about vacationing with friends to an unfamiliar beach that turned out to be a dystopian hellscape, with crumbling, graffiti-strewn hotels and roving gangs of punks straight out of an ’80s movie, daring vacationers to pass their flaming barricades and swinging chains to catch a glimpse of the ocean.  But enough about my inner turmoil!

By the time I got up and dressed, I figured most bakeries would be slammed by the brunch crowd, so I went off to bring home croissants from Buttermilk Bakery, a newish Winter Park bakery we’ve only been to once before, but I never reviewed.  (http://www.buttermilk-bakery.com/)

I was lucky to find the last parking space in the back, since they were doing bang-up business, with every table full and a line almost out the door.  But once I got up front, I was greeted by friendly bakers and a dazzling array of croissants and other pastries:

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Since we rarely make it out there, I ended up bringing home two plain croissants (although there is nothing “plain” about them), a morning bun, a monkey bread croissant, and a cinnamon sugar brioche doughnut.  They definitely made my wife’s morning, especially after I brewed up some cafe con leche for her.  After dreaming of seaside terrors and a fight for survival amid Art Deco ruins, the flaky, buttery, rich croissant and vaguely floral-accented morning bun helped me find my center as well.

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We are so lucky to have access to a plethora of awe-inspiring bakeries here in Orlando.  At this point, I don’t even mess with anything from the Publix bakery.  We have so many better local options, for the rare times I indulge in sweets.  (My wife is the one with the sweet tooth!)  We’re the hugest fans of Se7enbites, especially for pie, and we’ve had great experiences at Benjamin French Bakery and now Buttermilk Bakery for croissants.  Heartsong Cookies and Gideon’s Bakehouse both make some of the best cookies I’ve ever had, and The Gourmet Muffin specializes in… well, you can guess.  These are all baked goods — no baked bads among them!

The Hangry Bison

We tried the new Hangry Bison (https://thehangrybison.com/) in Winter Park Village for lunch this past Wednesday.  Directly across from my favorite movie theater in town, parking is usually at a premium there, so it seemed like a great off-time to go.  That space has been a few different restaurants, and I can’t imagine how high the rent is there.  The Hangry Bison has been open for less than a month at this point.  The location is great, the space is nice (lots of mason jar lights, which I guess are a thing now), and I wish them the best there.  Love their name, too!

We ordered the pretzels and beer cheese as an app, and the pretzels were awesome.  Very rich, buttery, and soft, with the slightest crispness from their shiny exterior, they reminded me of my mall guilty pleasure, Auntie Anne’s pretzels.  The beer cheese had the slightest tangy bite.  Very good stuff.hangrybison_pretzelbites

They have several different burger options on the menu, including bison, short rib, spicy Italian sausage, and vegan Impossible burger patties to choose from.  My wife chose the short rib burger on a pretzel bun.  I couldn’t decide between the bison, short rib, and sausage, so I went with the Haymaker for $25, a monstrosity with one of each patty.  The best of all possible worlds!  It is meant as a challenge meal, so huge that you win a T-shirt if you can conquer it in one sitting.  But I’m too old for that shit, to quote Roger Murtaugh.  I knew I could get three meals out of it, and I’m already at four meals!

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Yes, the Haymaker comes with two grilled cheese sandwiches on thick Texas toast in place of a standard bun, with lettuce and tomato, jalapenos, onion straws, bacon, pepper jack cheese, “bourbon sauce,” and a vast field of fries.  Ridiculous.  At the restaurant, we focused on sharing the fries, and I deconstructed it and took a couple of bites out of each patty.

The menu says you can get them cooked medium, medium-well, or well done, so we opted for medium, but we both wished we had asked for ours medium-rare.  They were all on the dry side, with a strong char-grilled taste to the meat.  Medium-rare would have been a lot juicier and better.  I gotta be honest: I didn’t notice the bourbon sauce or the pepper jack cheese, although it did come with a lot more of the beer cheese on it.  Not complaining, just giving my assessment.  Also, the cheese in the grilled cheese sandwiches was cheddar, and it didn’t melt very well, as you can see.  There’s no shame in using American cheese, folks — especially on a burger or in a grilled cheese sandwich.  Few cheeses melt better.

Since hauling our leftovers home, I’ve had the rest of the bison patty on one of the grilled cheeses, the rest of the short rib patty on the other grilled cheese, reheated the enviable amount of bacon in the toaster oven and served it to my wife with a homemade blueberry pancake the next morning, and chopped up the sausage patty and cooked it with some onions and roasted red peppers to serve over pasta last night.  So I definitely got my money’s worth!

Remember: get the pretzels, and ask for medium-rare!