The food of my people at Puerto Rico’s Cafe

On the night before we were set to leave Orlando, we decided to eat Puerto Rican food at Puerto Rico’s Cafe in Kissimmee, Florida. We like to get authentic Puerto Rican food and we remember it being great when we visited years before.

Puerto Rico’s Cafe is very unassuming and it is decorated how you would see a home decorated in Puerto Rico. The food was what you would expect to come out of a Puerto Rican kitchen.

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Native Decor

We started out with Acapurrias and Empanadas. The Acapurrias were meat-stuffed, deep-fried fritters. Empanadas are little pockets stuffed with meat or cheese. My son Jackson actually ate the Cheese Empanada because we told him it was a grilled cheese and it worked. He said it was delicious and I did like the Empanadas better than the Acapurrias. I’ve helped my dad make empanadas and they are a great handheld food, and now we know we can make them for Jackson and he will actually eat them.

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Acapurria and Empanada

For my entree, I decided on the Mofungo Relleno con Pollo or Stuffed Mofongo with Chicken. Mofongo is made from fried plantains and stuffed with meat, seafood or chicken that is formed into ball.  I’ve had Mofongo in Puerto Rico and the fried plantains were made into a cup and filled with meat. Now, I like it both ways. TK had Mofongo Relleno con Mariscos or with shrimp. The meat, chicken or seafood is always flavorful and tender. It is made and served seconds after, so it is piping hot. The Mofongo was paired with a bowl of chicken broth, but I only tasted it to make sure it was broth and didn’t actually eat it.

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Stuffed Mofongo with Chicken

TK said his Mofongo Relleno con Mariscos was delicious and he still remembers how good it was.

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Stuffed Mofongo with Shrimp

If you are looking for a place with delicious food where you don’t need to deal with the tourist crowd, Puerto Rico’s Cafe will satisfy your appetite and curiosity.

Puerto Rico’s Cafe, 507 W. Vine St., Kissimmee, FL, 407.847.6399

Dining alongside dinosaurs at T-REX

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Prior to arriving in Orlando, Florida, we made a reservation for T-REX in Disney Springs™ . I knew that my son would love dining alongside huge moving dinosaurs.

On the way of our reservation, we shopped around Disney Springs a little bit and then I went to go check in for our reservation. We had two reservations for six and they were able to combine them so we could all eat together. Since, the reservation was very early, they sat us a few minutes after check in.

The hostess walked us by the large animatronic dinosaurs and themed rooms, and led us to a table in the Ice Age room. The whole room glowed blue and we could see a giant fossilized Tyrannosaurus Rex. It was pretty cool. We couldn’t see it in our room, but apparently there was a meteor shower periodically that made all the dinosaurs start to move around and roar. We had a Triceratops right behind our heads that moved from time to time.

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When it came time to order, I got myself a Funky Buddha Floridian Hefeweizen and the Tuna Tataki. The  beer was light and crisp, and the tuna was fresh and delicate. It was seared ahi tuna with sesame seeds on top of white rice, sauteed spinach and salsa with mushrooms. There was a wasabi sauce drizzled overtop and a soy sauce on the side. I ate around the mushrooms and dipped it all in the soy sauce. It was the perfect meal if you are expecting to eat a Ghirardelli ice cream sundae afterward, which I was.

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After dinner, I made sure to stop in the gift shop because they had children’s sunglasses and my son kept complaining about the sun being in his eyes.

Consider T-REX when you are making dining reservations in Orlando because it is a unique and fun family experience.

T-REX, Disney Springs™, Lake Buena Vista, FL, 407.828.TREX

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Enjoy Paula’s Southern Cooking, Yall!

We planned to get dinner at Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen as soon as we heard that it existed in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. It is located in a new entertainment location called The Island at Pigeon Forge and it is definitely a must-do when in the area. We eventually decided that we would visit for my mother’s birthday in September.

Shortly after we sat down, the bread plate was added to the table. This may be my favorite bread plate/basket at any restaurant. The plate was covered in Hoe Cakes and Biscuits. The Biscuits were cheesy, like the ones you get at Red Lobster, but less salty. The Hoe Cakes were also good because they were a mix between a light pancake and a corn muffin. There was also Sweet Potato Butter to accompany the Hoe Cakes, and that was a subtly sweet addition.

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Cheesy Biscuits and Hoe Cakes with Sweet Potato Butter

We started the meal with the “Shore is Good” Seafood Dip. It was creamy, but chunky and very good. There were lumps of crab and shrimp in it, and it paired nicely with the crunchy bread. If you are allergic to mushrooms, be aware that there are tiny amounts of them in this dip.

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“Shore is Good” Seafood Dip

We only found out after the fact, but everything was fine because it is such a small amount. The dinner is served family-style, so we ordered our dishes and waited for all of them to come. We decided on Best Ever Southern Fried Chicken, Collard Greens, Mac and Cheese, Creamed Potatoes, Chicken Pot Pie, Poppyseed Tossed Salad and Spare Ribs. We also received Creamed Corn by mistake, and TK and I ate it.

The Poppyseed Tossed Salad was interestingly sweet, but it had a good amount of fresh ingredients mixed together as your only hope for a healthy meal. A few forkfuls and you earn the next dish.

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Poppyseed Tossed Salad

The Chicken Pot Pie was a little salty, but it was tasty. The flaky pastry laid across the top was great to dip into the creamy pie, but it seemed more like a personal dish than a shared one. It was probably for the best though, since it was pretty salty.

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Chicken Pot Pie

The Spare Ribs had a good amount of zesty sauce on them. I do like to get sauce all over my fingers when I eat ribs. I prefer a wet rub over a dry rub, and these were very good.

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Spare Ribs

The Best Ever Southern Fried Chicken had a very crunchy shell and flavorful meat underneath. I enjoyed this dish because I could tell that every aspect of the bird was planned for taste and it was not just slapped together.

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Best Ever Southern Fried Chicken

One of the sides was the Collard Greens, which I don’t usually eat, but I tried on this occasion. I just don’t understand this dish because it messes with your mind. It smells like meat and the first taste is of smoky meat, but then, you realize that you are eating floppy leaves. Then, confusion sets in. My parents love it, but I am not a fan.

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Collard Greens

Another side was the Mac and Cheese. I eat Mac and Cheese a lot because my son is basically surviving on it. This Mac and Cheese was just like homemade and it really gave me the warm and fuzzies. Also, the Creamed Corn was pretty good, but sweet. No one else at the table appreciated it, but that was fine; more for us.

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Creamed Corn

The Creamed Potatoes may have been my husband’s favorite item on the menu and that’s because he is a Mashed Potato Aficionado. He gets it everywhere and I am always so confused because mashed potatoes are pretty basic. Well, not these. They were great.

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Creamed Potatoes

For dessert, we were each able to pick one item. I chose the Ooey Gooey Butter Cake and it tasted like butter and sugar with a slight crunch. The portion was a little small for my liking. I would have liked a larger slice to get the full experience. This was a few bites and goodbye. My other family members got the Peach Cobbler and the Bread Pudding. All were happy, but the desserts paled in comparison to the entrees.

After this meal, I decided that if I were actually a member of the Deen Family, I would probably be a very large, yet joyful, individual. If you are in Pigeon Forge, make sure you stop by The Island for some shopping, but shop after eating at Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen because you will need to walk off all of those calories, happily.

Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, 131 The Island Drive, Suite 8101, Pigeon Forge, TN, 865.366.1510

 

Toast to Toast

IMG_7042The folks in Patchogue were impatiently waiting for Toast to finally arrive on Main Street. Everyone kept harassing Terry, the owner, every time they saw him asking, “When are you opening?” He’d say, “Next month,” or “Next week,” and then finally, it was, “Tomorrow!”

Their other location in Port Jefferson, New York is known for their delicious breakfast and fondue. Unfortunately, right now the Patchogue location is only open until 3 p.m. on weekdays and 3:30 p.m. on weekends, so no fondue … yet. My fingers are permanently crossed.

You may have to wait on line to get a seat because this new spot is so popular, but it will be worth it. The decor is really eclectic with canvas paintings of farm animals in formal clothing, an old school electric chair and some steampunk details. Take a look around.

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Each time I eat at Toast, I find a new favorite. I decided pretty early in the game that I would not order the same thing at any of my visits until I have exhausted all of the items that I want to try on the menu. I visited three times so far, so I ordered three different items.

The first time, I ate the Three Cheese Trio and it was crispy and creamy. The three types of cheese are Cheddar, American and Swiss, and they are layered with tomato between two slices of toasted multigrain bread. I got a salad on the side instead of fries because I was pretending to be sorta healthy.

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Three Cheese Trio

The second time, I had the Chicken Salad Wrap. It was fresh and cool, and I ordered a Greek Salad on the side because once again, I was trying to be sorta healthy. The salad’s welcome crunch and sweetness came courtesy of some apple slices tossed in. I always order chicken salad when I go to lunch, but I have never had apples in it. I don’t usually mix my veggies with my fruit, but I made an exception for this yummy wrap.

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Chicken Salad Wrap

And, the third time I dined was during Lent, so I ate the Sweet Potato Pancakes. They were fluffy and were just like a warm hug for my belly, especially with the sweet honey butter.

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Sweet Potato Pancakes

Everything sounds and looks so delicious on the menu that I already know what I am going to decide between on my next visit: The Krispy Nutella French Toast (strawberries and Nutella) or The Graham Cracker French Toast (peanut butter, bananas and caramel). At the Patchogue location they even have exclusive Eggs Benedict dishes called The Splendid Benedict and The Haberdasher’s Delight, which I am actually also considering. At this rate, I will probably have to visit a dozen more times to be able to taste everything I want, and then wash them down with the variety of fruity Mimosa options.

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The Bad Larry

I highly recommend breakfast or lunch at Toast and will continue to check off items on the menu. Fortunately, Toast allows you to order online and pick up your food, so there’s always that option. On their website, it says that “Eating Toast makes you happy,” so go find your smile.

Toast Coffeehouse, 46 East Main Street, Patchogue, NY, 631.654.7091

Holy Chiddy’s Cheesesteaks

I was introduced to cheesesteaks at Penn State, but being that Philadelphia is three hours from State College, I’ve never had the original in Philly. But, don’t feel bad for me because I have had Chiddy’s.

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Chiddy’s is a food truck stationed in the parking lot of the Bay Shore Best Buy on most days. Usually it’s Monday-Friday from 11 a.m-6 p.m. with some Saturdays and closed on Sundays, but they also work evenings at local breweries and events.

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I ordered the Chicken Cheesesteak with American cheese and lettuce, and WOW was I pleased. The sandwich had soft bread, moist chopped chicken, salty cheese and cool, crisp lettuce. Yep, I ate the ENTIRE thing. I also ate a little of the Cheesesteak Fries and those were really good. Crisp fries paired with shaved ribeye and creamy cheese really make you feel like you are cheating on a diet that you may or may not be on.

Chiddy’s serves up a variety of cheesesteaks, some with eggs, mushrooms or potatoes, and also chicken fingers, hot dogs and empanadas. Oh, and salad, but who wants salad when you can have cheese, steak and fries?

Chiddy’s Cheesesteaks, 631.813.4022

AJ’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese Shop

Grilled cheese may be one of the most basic, yet delicious meals. In Bay Shore, AJ’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese Shop is putting bread and cheese together to make something tasty.

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No grilled cheese is complete without a cup or bowl of Tomato Soup. So, I started off with a small cup of my own. They even offer Grilled Cheese Sticks to dip into the Tomato Soup, if that’s your thing. Of course, I wanted a full sandwich, so I ordered the Big T. It added sliced honey maple turkey to cheddar and two slices of sourdough. The turkey added saltiness to the creaminess of the cheese and the crunch of the bread. It was a truly great sandwich.

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All sandwiches come with Homemade Potato Chips and they make a dipping sauce for them and for their tater tots as well. I ordered the tater tots, but they were pretty basic. However, the chips were crunchy and tasted fresh. They are a great bonus to any sandwich.

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TK also ordered a side of Lobster Mac & Cheese that had huge chunks of lobster in it and curly noodles. We also got regular Mac & Cheese for our son that I ended up eating a few days later.

If you like grilled cheese, there are 13 different varieties at AJ’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese and you need to get started. Wait, make that 14 if the Special of the Month is a sandwich.

AJ’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese, 182 W. Main Street, Bay Shore, NY, 631.647.9292

My Valentine at Luso

My husband is a big fan of Brazilian steakhouses or Churrasqueira. What he likes most about them is that they offer an array of meat and it keeps on coming until he decides he’s had enough. This all-you-can-eat style is called Rodizio and the meat is brought over to the table by a collection of waiters who add one delicious meat after another to your dish and then make their way to the next carnivore.

For Valentine’s Day, I wanted my husband to try a local Churrasqueira, so we went to Luso Churrasqueira in Smithtown, New York. He chose the Rodizio, obviously, and I chose Spare Ribs. The sides are served family-style, so the waiter comes over and covers your table with dishes and bowls full of accompaniments. I received my Spare Ribs and they were seasoned perfectly. I ate them with a fork and knife at first because I had a dress on and was trying to act like a lady, but then I had to make sure I didn’t waste any of the meat, so I had to use my hands, like I normally would.

TK’s meat started to arrive and first there was Sausage, then Spare Ribs, then Turkey Wrapped in Bacon, then Skirt Steak, then Beef Shank, and just when he thought he couldn’t take it anymore, the waiter brought over some Sirloin. But, that wasn’t the end because some Chicken made its way onto his plate too. His favorite was the Sirloin, followed by the Sausage. All of the meat was seasoned and tender, so he couldn’t pass on trying them all.

After all that meat and all of its friends, we were so full that I couldn’t even order the dessert that I admired at another table.

I probably wouldn’t recommend Luso to a vegetarian or a vegan, but if you like meat—a lot of it—give it a try.

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Luso Restaurant, 133 W. Main Street, Smithtown, NY, 631.406.6820