For years, I’ve been a regular poster on the Orlando Foodie Forum on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/orlandofoodieforum/), which is a pretty great community. That led to me being invited to contribute a piece to the Orlando Weekly at the end of last year, listing my five favorite local dishes of 2017. Getting published as a real, professional food writer was one of the proudest moments of my life, and I still stand by this list of local favorites.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big fan of grocery stores and grocery shopping. It’s the only kind of shopping I enjoy, in fact. I regularly stop at multiple stores to pick things up: Aldi (my favorite), Publix, Costco, occasionally Trader Joe’s, Fresh Market, and Target if I’m near them.
We recently had a Bravo Supermarket open near us, which is aimed at the Latinx community and specializes in groceries and prepared foods from Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. (https://www.bravosupermarkets.com/)
The prices are fantastic, and as you would expect, they carry all kinds of stuff Publix doesn’t. I got my wife an assortment of coconut waters, since they have over a dozen different brands and varieties: some with pulp and some without pulp, some roasted, some “young” coconut, etc.
The hot foods counter is set up like a cafeteria line, where you can get a styrofoam box stuffed to bursting with the rice of your choice (white, yellow with pigeon peas, or a specialty rice) with an entree and a side, for $7 and change. I’ve been twice so far. Last week, I brought home roast pork over yellow rice with tostones (crispy-fried plantains) for my wife and stewed goat over fried rice with maduros (sweet plantains) for myself. Today being a Friday, I remembered they had rabo (oxtail) as a special of the day, and I always love oxtail. I got mine over moros rice (white rice stewed with black beans and onions) with maduros.
It was really good oxtail, but nothing beats when I get it at the Jamaican restaurant Golden Krust, one of my favorites. I’ll have to go back soon and review it.
The prepared foods counter also has quesitos, empanadas, pastellitos, Jamaican beef patties, some desserts, and they will make you Cuban coffee, too. Their quesitos (pastries stuffed with sweetened cream cheese) are very tasty, but much doughier and chewier than I’m used to. The quesitos from the Cuban restaurants back home in Miami were usually made of a flakier, crispier, almost croissant-like dough that often shattered when you bit into them. Both are good, though.
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.
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!
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!
I love food. Love eating, love cooking, love discovering, talking about, recommending, and reviewing food. Food is everything: culture, history, art, science, politics. In these uncertain times, I think sharing a good meal is something everyone can find common ground over, even if they’re diametrically-opposed foes on every other topic. So here’s one more food blog that can possibly even contribute to the shared human experience in this tumultuous world.
I live in the Orlando, Florida area. Orlando has been unfairly dismissed for far too long as being “chain restaurant hell,” a destination for theme park tourists and not much else. But I’ve lived here since 2004, and I love our rich, diverse, multicultural city, which has a TREMENDOUS culinary scene. We have amazing restaurants far from the gates of the parks (and a few that are closer), so the main point of this blog will reviewing my local food experiences. I don’t make it out of town very often, but when I do, you bet I’ll review whatever I eat in more exotic locales.
I might also share recipes I create or find, or even review groceries that everyone needs to know about. And occasionally I’ll just want to recommend or review something else: a good movie, TV show, band, comedian, book, or comic book. I’m a librarian by trade and a lifelong nerd, so I tend to get enthusiastic about the stuff I like, and I want to share information and tell stories.
I’m a mediocre photographer with an even more mediocre phone camera, so I’ll try to share my culinary adventures with you as best I can, primarily using my words. Hopefully you’ll read and follow this blog and feel inspired to try something new for yourself. There’s so much good food out there, and you need to eat anyway, so why not treat yourself to something awesome? Sometimes a good meal, or even a snack, can be the highlight of the day — either something to help you celebrate or cheer you up. You might not always agree with me, but I look forward to hopefully building a following and a community, with all the constructive feedback that goes along with those.
Just a few warnings:
1. I don’t like hashtags. This will be one food blog where you can always expect complete thoughts in complete sentences.
2. I don’t drink and I’m allergic to mushrooms, so don’t expect booze-and-shrooms content.
3. Nobody is paying me to do this, so everything I write is my own opinion, which I stand by with a clear conscience.
So what’s the deal with the title? What the heck is a saboscrivner? Well, I’m also a lifelong comic book reader (“This guy? The hell, you say!”), and one of my favorite comics of the last decade was Chew, written by John Layman, drawn by Rob Guillory, and published by Image Comics. The whole series is complete, and you can buy the volumes from your local comic book store or on Amazon, or check them out from your public library or on the Hoopla service. It’s an action-adventure-crime-horror-sci-fi-comedy, set in a food-obsessed world where most of the main characters have food-related super powers. Everyone’s powers got a polysyllabic name and a description, and one of my favorites, a main character in the Chew saga, served as a bit of a personal inspiration.
From her first appearance in Chew #2: “Amelia Mintz is a saboscrivner. That means she can write about food so accurately, so vividly and with such precision – people get the actual sensation of taste when reading about the meals she writes about.”
That saboscrivner ended up playing a key role in saving the world, but I’m just a regular guy trying to share information as a food blogger. I hope you’ll decide to follow The Saboscrivner and turn to it for restaurant reviews and recommendations in Orlando and beyond.
My wife and I had an awesome lunch at Orlando Meats (http://orlandomeats.com/). Today I got their new “Snackriligious” sandwich, chicken-fried lasagna with ricotta on a roll, which is as good as you would think. Better, even.
My wife got a delicious-looking beef and mushroom blended burger called the Smurf House, cooked to a perfect medium-rare. I can’t do mushrooms, but still tasted a tiny morsel, and it was excellent. I didn’t get a picture, but trust me, she is still raving about it. Their regular burger, though not gigantic (neither was this one), is still extremely satisfying and might be THE best burger in Orlando.
Orlando Meats is a treasure. They have the best chips (fried in beef tallow!) and cole slaw, too. The chips are the PERFECT consistency — not as crunchy as kettle chips, not as thin, crumbly, and inconsequential as something like Lay’s — the ideal middle ground.
They make their own doughnuts too, probably fried in lard. But they were surprisingly light and fluffy. My wife liked the churro doughnut with cinnamon sugar best. I still prefer Donut King, but I’m really glad we tried them.
Occasionally you’ll see posts titled “Ring the Alarm!,” so you’ll know onion ring reviews are coming. I love onion rings, and I’m always on a quest for good ones. Sadly, there are a lot of mediocre-to-bad onion rings out there. But on June 11, I had some really good ones.
My quest for good onion rings continued at the Rusty Spoon (http://therustyspoon.com/) before my wife and I saw a play downtown last night. It’s always a solid restaurant, but I finally tried their “Rusty O-Rings,” which totally sounds naughty. They have a nice crispy, golden batter coating that stays on pretty well, and they dust them with powdered sugar, which seems weird, but it worked to counterbalance the pungency of the onion and the saltiness of the batter. They also served them with a dipping sauce that our server told me was made with Guinness, balsamic vinegar, and mustard. “Three of my favorite things!”, I exclaimed.