Food Adventures – Fantastic Finds

Our dining critic journeys into the bizarre, healthy, spirited, "who knew?" and just plain cool and delicious. Lobster ice cream anyone?


Why You Need a Good Knife

Fact #1: Most kitchen accidents happen because of a dull-bladed knife, which needs more force to cut and therefore affords less control.

Fact #2: A well-made knife will stay sharper longer. As Anthony Bourdain said in Kitchen Confidential: “Here’s all you will ever need in the knife department: ONE good chef’s knife, as large as is comfortable for your hand.” The Chef’s Knife from Randall Made (below) is bold, balanced and beautiful. The local legend's catalog of knives are hand-tooled in its shop on South Orange Blossom Trail, as they have been since 1938, and can take five years to obtain as a special order; $475. An inexpensive alternative, the well-regarded (but not quite as beautiful) Victorinox 8” Fibrox chef’s knife, can be found at WilliamS- Sonoma for $48.


Keep them in the Dark

Kissimmee River Mushrooms. Bill and Laurie Blomberg and their children harvest upward of 1,000 pounds of mushrooms a week on their farm in Okeechobee. These are not your garden-variety white buttons, but gorgeous and flavorful oyster mushrooms, in a dazzling variety of colors. These works of art in rose petal pastel pinks, bright yellows, dusky blues and sepia-edged whites are used by several Orlando area restaurants, including Citricos, Mist Sushi+Spirits at Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld, Hemingway’s and Santiago’s Bodega. They also can be found at local Whole Foods stores.


Vinegared okra accompanying every dish at Holler & Dash. Celebration.

Fried “frickles” at Beth’s Burger Bar. Three area locations.

Salt-preserved squid offal ika shiokara at Hanamizuki. International Drive.

Spicy pickled cauliflower and carrots in jars from Orlando’s NUTPOP Pickle Co.

At Anna’s, the  Polish delight of pickle soup—potato, vegetables, diced pickled cucumber—joins a variety of sour veggies that warm my Slavic heart. Winter Park.

A Grain of Truth

Congaree and Penn. Just outside Jacksonville, Congaree and Penn has quietly revolutionized the state of Florida's rice production. Growing and processing brown and white rice in its red granite stone mill, C&P also makes superb local rice grits and hand grinds purple rice grits from the Blanca Isabel fields in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Taste them in menu items at Luma On Park, Luke’s Kitchen and Bar, The Rusty Spoon, and The Farmacy in Winter Garden.

Little-known fact: Rice acts as a ground cover when Florida sugar isn’t in season. More than 22,000 acres of rice crops are grown in Palm Beach County by Florida Crystals, the conventional and organic sugar folks, who make Florida’s Table Rice in organic white and brown varieties.

Spotlight Got Mylk? 

Sweet Utopian Mylk Bar. Ashley Bland’s inventive business started as a granola company. “Everything on the market shelves tasted like cardboard,” the self-taught artisan says. “So I made my own full-flavored blends. Then I needed something to put on the granola.” Four years on, the gluten free, vegan, kosher, non-GMO, dairy free and “partially raw” plant-based milks from almonds and hazelnuts come in 15 flavors, and vegetarian brownies and blondies now populate the Utopian line. With no shop of her own, Bland makes about 15 gallons of “mylk” a week to supply Dandelion CommuniTEA Cafe, Homegrown Local Food Co-op, Market on South, Wild Hare Kitchen & Garden Emporium, and several farmer’s markets, with an eye on expanding further into the Southeast and out to California.


Time for a Snack 

Macaw! Foods. Non-GMO, preservative free, all organic snack bars made in Orlando by Owen Seay, in flavors like mint chocolate chip, banana bread and cookie dough. Available at the Winter Park and Lake Eola farmers markets, Bulk Nation and online.

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