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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Best Happy Hours in Orlando

Drinks - Happy Hour is all day, every day. Some drink highlights are $2 Bud Light mugs and Mimosas, $4 OBP mugs and Peppar Bloody Marys, select $5 mixed drinks and martinis, and select $5 Barcardi drinks. They make their own mix for the Bloody Marys and are the best Downtown IMO. If Rob is working the bar, tell him Lauren sent you.
Food - On Sundays and Mondays starting at 6 they do all-you-can-eat Snow Crabs with sides for $25. Monday - Friday from 5 to 7 get FREE oysters at the bar and on the patio.
Cityfish is located at 617 E. Central Blvd. in Thornton Park.
*you can usually find free street parking on Eola, Church, or Pine near Cityfish. If not, there's a garage off Eola and Central.

Mucho Tequila and Tacos
Drinks - They have different daily drink specials all week so check the website but some of my favorites are on Mondays - Happy Hour (which is usually 4 to 6) is all day. $2 Tacos, Ritas, Dos Equis, and 1800 Silver shots. Tuesdays - $2 Negra Modela and $4 Milagro Ritas and shots (my favorite tequila.) Sundays - 6 to close - $5 Tecate quarts and $4 Sangria all day.
Food - Free chips and salsa all the time and $2 chicken or beef tacos during Happy Hour. Even if it's not Happy Hour they have a bunch of 8 inch tacos for $4 or less including a fish taco.
Muchos is located at 101 S. Eola Ave. in Thornton Park.
*you can usually find free street parking on Eola, Church, or Pine near Muchos. If not, there's a garage off Eola and Central.

Wildside BBQ Bar and Grill
Drinks - Happy Hour from 4 to 7 and all day on Sundays. $2 House wine and wells and beer specials. My favorite is Yuengling for $1.79!
Food - Haven't seen any Happy Hour food specials yet, but all sides including fries, coleslaw, side salad, and pasta salad are under $2.
Wildside is located at 700 E. Washington St. in Thornton Park
*they have their own parking lot but if it's full there's usually free street parking on surrounding streets.

Drinks - It's $2 off everything from the bar except domestic bottles which are $1 off. It also includes $10.00 off bottles of wine that they sell by the glass.
Monday- 3 till close
Tuesday- 3 till 7PM
Wednesday- 3 till 7PM
Thursday- 3 till 7 and from 7 till close for ladies excluding bottles of wine
Friday- 3 till 7PM
Friday and Saturday nights from 10PM till 1AM enjoy 50% off all Liquor Drinks
Sangria Saturdays - $4 Sangria, $2 Tecate cans and Tapas specials from 11AM to 7PM
Drink Specials on Sunday are $4.50 Bloody Marys and $2.95 Mimosas from open till 3PM and $1.50 Domestic bottle of beer all day.
Food - Tapas specials from 11AM to 7PM on Saturdays and $1 Burgers on Tuesdays from 5 to close.
Dexter's is located at 808 E. Washington St. in Thornton Park.
*they have their own small parking lot that is always filled during peak hours. There's usually free street parking near Dexter's. If not, hit up the garage off Eola and Central.

Drinks -
$2.50 Red Stripe beer all the time. $3.50 SoCo shots and Tropical Punch shots all the time. 1/2 off Tiki Drinks and $2.50 Barcardi drinks during happy hour. Happy Hour is Monday - Friday from 4 to 7.
Food -
1/2 off appetizers during Happy Hour.
Phucket Fridays -
1/2 off Phucket Buckets on Fridays from 12PM to 12AM!
Waitiki is located at 26 Wall St.
*can usually find free street parking on Orange after 7PM until about 9 (not Fridays or Saturdays.) If not, check other side streets or use parking garage on Washington or Central.

Wall St. Cantina
Drinks -
During Happy Hour from 4 to 7 Monday - Friday get $2.50 Margaritas and $2.50 Coronas.
Food -
1/2 off apps during Happy Hour.
Taco Tuesday -
$2 Tacos, Tequilas, Margaritas, and Mexican beers on Tuesdays from 2PM to 2AM!
Wall St. Cantina is located at 19 N. Orange Ave.
*can usually find free street parking on Orange after 7PM until about 9 (not Fridays or Saturdays.) If not, check other side streets or use parking garage on Washington or Central.

Downtown Pourhouse
Drinks - Happy Hour is from 11AM to 8PM Monday - Friday. Specials on liquor and beer. $3 SoCo shots all the time. Pinnacle drinks and shots are $3 for ladies every night after 8.
Food - No food specials yet that I know of but nothing on the menu is over $14 including the famous Black and Tan burger and Lobster Mac n' Cheese!
Country Music Mondays - $3.50 Jack drinks and shots, $2.50 Bud and Bud Light, and if you wear a cowboy hat you get a free shot of SoCo.

Half off Tuesdays -
1/2 off all alcohol on Tuesdays after 9PM.
Downtown Pourhouse is located at 20 S. Orange Ave.
*can usually find free street parking on Orange after 7PM until about 9 (not Fridays or Saturdays.) If not, check other side streets or use parking garage on Central or parking under I4.

Shari Sushi Lounge
Happy Hour is seven days a week from 5-7PM
- Select beer, Sakitinis, and Sake for $3.75
Food - Over twenty different rolls, sushi, and sashimi for $3.75. Ask for some rice cakes.
Trust me this is the best sushi happy hour downtown.
Shari is located at 621 E. Central Blvd.
*parking - see Cityfish

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My top 5 favorite burgers in Orlando (at this moment.)

#1 - The Black and Tan from Downtown Pourhouse
Onion Rings, Stout Glaze, Gruyere Cheese

The perfect blend of sweet, savory, gooey, crunchy, soft and juicy.

#2 - The Crooked Spoon Burger from The Crooked Spoon
Angus Beef, Chipotle Aioli, Swiss, Caramelized Onion, Lettuce, Tomato

I stole this picture from Julius at (one of my favorite food blogs) because I've ate this burger twice and never took a picture.

#3 - My "Design Your Own Burger" at Pine Twenty 2
Humanely Handled, Grass fed, Hormone and Antibiotic-free 100% Angus Beef, Local Multi grain Bun, Pepper Jack, Herb Aioli, Bermuda Red Onion, Charred Pineapple, Dill Pickle, Organic Mixed Greens, and Applewood Smoked Bacon.

#4 - The Beargrrrr from The Treehouse Truck
Cheeseburger with bacon in between two Krispy Kreme Donuts

#5 - The Wild "Fire" Burger from Wildside
Hand Patted Black Angus Beef, Mixed with Gorgonzola Cheese, Mild Buffalo Sauce, Served on Texas Toast with Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, and topped with Crispy Onion Rings.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Check out this freakin' sandwich I ate!!!

Well, I was going to wait to write about this samich until I had enough samiches to complete my "5 favorite sandwiches at this moment" list, but it's too good not to tell right now. AND it's on special at The Rusty Spoon so it won't be there for long. So go get it!

So, I went to The Rusty Spoon last Friday to check this place out. It's new and on the bottom floor of 55 West off Church St. Our waiter, Tim, was EXTREMELY informative and enthusiastic. I think maybe he had been doin' blow all night. Who knows. So far his recommendations of the beer, martini, and appetizer were correct, so I listened to him when he said their special, the Fried Soft Shell Crab Sandwich, was A.MAZ.ING! I could seriously see this man's pupils dilate when he told me how awesome it was. He was not effing joking. They brought this thing out and I'm pretty sure my jaw hit the ground. Then I immediately started taking pictures. I will let them speak for themselves.

Yes, there were legs coming out of my sandwich. In between two pieces of grilled, buttery Texas toast.

Yep, that's an entire fried soft shell crab. It was fried perfectly. Crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. It also had lettuce, tomato, and a thick chive aoili or something on it. With fries. With homemade ketchup. Yeah. And now for the money shot...

Although I had a great experience, my boyfriend did not :( Read about it here on Yelp!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

My sleeve is finally finished!!!

A little over a year ago I decided to get a half sleeve. I went to Freak who I've known for a while and he's done a lot of my friend's work. He does really amazing stuff. I told him what I wanted and he told me to give him a day or two to draw it out. I basically wanted some of my favorite moments on my arm. I wanted the Marlin I caught in the Bahamas, the hammock hut from Tensing Pen, Jamaica, the 165 foot waterfall I rappelled off of in Costa Rica and the Arenal Volcano I ate lunch next to all against a backdrop of a Keys sunset.
I went back to see what he had dr
awn and he drew it as one big scene. I said it was awesome but I wanted all of these things separated somehow considering they were all separate events and places in time. So we decided to "frame" a couple of the scenes and he would re-draw it. He did, and we got started on the outline on my birthday of last year.
I am admitting this publicly now, that I should've listened to him and went with the original drawing. Don't get me wrong, I love it, but it does look a little crowded and "busy" just like he said it might. Oh well! Can't go back now! Just a word of advice from me: always listen to your tattoo artist.
All in all, it was a great experience and I don't regret it one f*ck!ng bit.

The outline took about 1.5 hours. It wasn't too bad.

the outline

marlin colored in

Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica and the hammock hut at Tensing Pen in Jamaica

aaannndd the finished product!

The parts that hurt the worst were on the underside of my arm. Ya know where it's not exposed to too much sun and it's soft and fatty? Yeah, that part. Thank God for headphones and Pandora. Each scene took about 45 minutes to an hour. The background with the waterfall took about 1.5 hours. So all in all I think it was about 6 hours total.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Yelp Elite Event @ The Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress

We were an hour late due to I4 traffic so the plan was "power hour!" We headed straight for the bar, double fisted, then hit up all the food. The sunset was pretty, the wind was blowing, they had tiki torches lit, reggae music was playing, and I was with three other awesome ladies. I'd have to say it was about a 9 on the awesome meter. Minus 1 point because I wish there was more food and we could've hung out longer.

pretty sunset

pretty girls

Jumbo lump crab cakes with coconut grits and fried calamari from Hemingways, my fave!
Mini chocolate cake w/ raspberry and creme brulee from La Coquina!

I need to take picture posing lessons from Ali.

Photos from Jim White @

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Recent food and drink noms and not-so-noms.

Humunga Kawabunga from Waitiki, $14.99. Half pound grilled burger topped with 4 bacon strips, 2 cheddar slices, 2 fried eggs, onion rings & chipotle bbq sauce, all between 2 grilled cheese sandwiches. My nephew's friend, Frank, ate the entire thing including the fries.

Shrimp Po' Boy from Cityfish, $12. The cajuny sauce makes it.

Tuna Kobachi from 310 Lakeside, $14. Diced ahi tuna seasoned with seven spice and sesame. Served on a bed of cucumbers accompanied by wasabi, soy and ginger.

Smoked Salmon from 310 Lakeside, $15. Fresh filet of salmon smoked in-house served with a chive anchovy remoulade and Lavosh crackers. First bite and my boyfriend almost puked which was ok because I finished the entire thing.

Funny pizza dude on Kirkman Rd.

Corned Beef Hash and 2 eggs over easy with a side of Hollandaise (my twist) from Dexters, $10. Nom, nom, and more nom.

Local corn on the cob with fresh mayo and spicy parm and local pork skewers from Big Wheel
Provisions Food Truck, $10. Corn was insanely good.

Abita Strawberry from Cityfish. $4.50? New fave.

Royal Red Shrimp with some sweet Thai chili sauce and deviled eggs from Big Wheel Provisions Food Truck. $11. The sauce on shrimp was amazing, the shrimp not so much. I actually hoped I didn't end up sick. The deviled eggs are my favorite, ever.

Fried Oreos from Red Eye BBQ Truck, $5. I thought the Oreo would be crunchy on the inside but instead it absorbs the moisture from the batter. It ends up soft like cake and the filling melts like icing.

Crispy pork belly sliders and pastrami fries with thousand island dipping sauce from Big Wheel Provisions Food Truck, $9. Sliders were great. The sauce for the fries didn't taste to thousand island like, but was still delicious.

Grilled Eggplant Sandwich with roasted tomato, spinach, goat cheese and balsamic on Ciabatta from Downtown Pourhouse, $9. This reminded me that I don't like eggplant very much but every thing else about it was fantabulous.

Sesame Seared Tuna Sashimi with wonton basket, wakame, wasabi cream and soy vinaigrette from Cafe Tu Tu Tango, $10.

Baby Guiness. XO CafePatron and Baileys from Cityfish, $6.

Smoked Fish Dip from Rusty's Seafood and Oyster Bar, $5.99. Rusty's secret recipe my ass. No smoke flavor and tastes like canned tuna and Miracle Whip.

Seared Pork Belly Bahn Mi from Big Wheel Provisions Food Truck, $8. 9 on the nom meter.

The 420 Burger from The Crooked Spoon Truck, $8. Angus burger with candied bacon, pineapple relish, honey whole grain mustard aioli, and a crispy fried onion ring. Um...I think you could put candied bacon on dirt and it would taste good.

The Fairbanks Cuban from Shipyard Emporium, $9. Thin sliced house roasted pork loin, swiss, housemade pickles, mayo and dijon, hot pressed on a baguette. I'm partial to anything with housemade pickles.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

NOLA, I love you and I haven't even met you.

In 2007 I fell in love with New Orleans chef, John Besh, when he was on The Next Iron Chef. Everything he cooked just screamed out to me. I wanted to taste every. single. thing. he made. I've always had chefs that I like but Besh is the first one that I love. It also doesn't hurt that he's pretty handsome for an older dude. If I ever met him in person I'm sure I would make a total ass of myself. Like the time I met Dr. G: Medical Examiner at Brick and Fire Pizza. I was so nervous that I told her that if I ever died a mysterious death I would want her to do my autopsy. I said this in front of her kids. Yeah, it was awkward.
Besh made it to the finals but lost to Micheal Symon who is also amazing, but there was still something about Besh that just called to me. It was then that my obsession with Creole and Cajun cooking started. And New Orleans in general.
I started reading more about NOLA like Mardi Gras and the French Quarter and started to learn more about Cajun foods like the holy trinity, crawfish, and Andouille sausage. I made a list of restaurants I wanted to visit if I ever went there. I took notes from people like Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain when I watched the Travel Channel. Places like Mother's, Cochon, and Antoine's head the list along with some of Besh's restaurants like August and La Provence.

Around this time I met Tim. My friend started dating this guy and Tim was that guy's roommate. I was busy dating some other douchbag so I didn't pay to much attention to him but we'd chat a little if I ever saw him out at a bar or something. I learned that Tim was from New Orleans and given my new obsession, it would often come up in conversation. I broke up with the douchbag about a year ago. Me and Tim started talking more, then hanging out more, then we started dating. It's been about six months now. Lauren is happy.
Tim is my living reference when I have anything to ask about NO or it's food. We ate at Mojo Cajun Bar and Grill a while back and it totally blew. He ordered the Jambalaya with red beans and rice. He said that both of those are staples and not too hard to make so if they get it wrong, they must really suck. Well, they got it wrong. Here is my review on Yelp.

For Christmas the first thing on my list (yes, I still make a list) was My New Orleans, The Cookbook, by John Besh. My brother got it for me and it was one of my favorite presents. Not only do I read it sometimes at night like it's a murder/mystery book or something, but it's my go-to cookbook for pretty much anything. Not only is there over 200 recipes but in the beginning of every chapter, JB tells a personal story and gives a little history lesson on what the chapter is about. This book made me fall more in love and have an even deeper appreciation for New Orleans.
My first attempt at a traditional Cajun dish was red beans and rice. Up until I read the recipe I really had no idea that it took so long. I followed John's recipe exactly except for instead of using butter I used duck fat. It took about three hours simmering on my stove. It was delicious except for the ham hocks. I don't know what kind of hocks Besh uses but the ones I got were almost inedible. I understand using a cut of meat with the bone in so I think next time I'll use one for flavor but use ham and Andouille to actually eat and throw the ham hock away at the end.

I went shrimping last weekend. It was a pretty slow night. Caught about four dozen. The next night I made some "bang bang" shrimp and some peel and eats with a homemade smokey cocktail sauce. I had onions, celery, and carrots in the fridge so I saved the heads and shells and made some shrimp stock. I, of course, referred to My New Orleans for guidance and I will use it again when I use my stock to make Barbeque Shrimp or Shrimp and Grits.

In 2008 I went to the Abacos, Bahamas for two weeks. Shortly after I planned to go back for my 30th birthday. I've recently changed my mind. I'm going to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. While I'm there I plan on going to a few of the restaurants on my list. My nephew is going to be back from Afghanistan by then but will still be at 29 Palms til' next May until his career as a Marine is over. He told me he plans on using some of his leave time to meet me in Nawlins for my birthday. Damn, NOLA, you in trouble.

I heart my nephew

So last weekend was interesting for me. Friday night my nephew, Charles Roger Ball III a.k.a. "The Boy", called me as I was leaving work to say goodbye. I cried the whole way home. This is his 2nd deployment to Afghanistan. He is an Infantry Mortar man in the United States Marine Corp.

We've got closer since he's been in the Marines. Not because of that but because I think we're closer in age now. I mean, we've always been 3 years apart but there's a difference between 23 and 26 and 26 and 29. I kinda feel like we're on the same level now. The first time he deployed I was worried but I wasn't this worried.
Saturday I was on my way to go fishing with my brother, his dad, and everything was perfect. I was driving with the windows rolled down blasting Mumford and Sons, not a cloud in the sky and a perfect 80 degrees. One second I felt grateful then the next I felt guilty. It's a weird two feelings to have at the same time. I felt guilty that while I was enjoying that perfect day, my nephew is eating MREs, not showering for weeks at a time, missing his family and friends, and putting his life on the line. Then I felt grateful again. That because of him and everyone else that serves in the military I am able to drive with the windows rolled down blaring music and can pretty much do whatever the hell I want.
My brother talked to me about where he was going and what he would be doing and it made me even more worried.
Sunday sucked. I wasn't on the water anymore so I actually had time to think about it. I didn't even want to be in Orlando. I just wanted to run away somewhere else and get my mind off it. I woke up in the middle of the night last night and couldn't go back to sleep because I couldn't stop thinking about him.
So I guess all I really have to say is thank you Charlie and I love you. I can't wait for you to be home safe.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Abacos, Bahamas, June 2008

Hmmmm..... Let's just say I had an opportunity to go to the Abacos on a 45 foot 1969 Hatteras for two weeks. For free. Damn, I was lucky.

The only thing not so lucky about the whole trip is that I get EXTREMELY sea sick so I prepared by getting a prescription sea sickness patch. It works, don't get me wrong, but there are some unpleasant side effects that come with it. Scopalomine, the drug in the patch, is an Atropine derivative so it can make your pupils dilate just like the drops you get when you get an eye exam. It did this to me except one pupil was bigger than the other. Not only did I look like a nutjob but I couldn't see very well unless I was in the sun. Another side effect is "delayed gastric emptying." Combine that with the fact that I was eating more food than I had probably ate my entire life and at some point I'm pretty sure I contracted a parasite from the raw fish I was eating and I had myself a very awkward predicament.
Alright, there's no way I can really get around this without being blunt. I had the worst case of diarrhea I have ever had in my entire life. The kind where if you don't find a toilet RIGHT NOW you're going to crap your pants. There was a lot of bathroom window opening, faucet running and shitting in holes.

When you're on a remote little island like this and you HAVE to go, you hang behind a bit, wait for the one person you're with to round a corner out of ear, nose, and eye shot, dig a hole, and poop in it. Hey man, I had to doo what I had to doo.
So yes, it was free, but I did pay a price.

Other than that it was one of the most awesome vacations ever! We fished A LOT!

I was laying in the cabin of the boat because I felt a little woozy then all of a sudden I heard a bunch of shouting and running around on deck. Then the door swung open and Dave yelled "Do you want to catch a fucking Marlin?!" Of course I did, are you crazy?! I wobbled my nauseous, little ass out there, they put me in the fighting chair, and off I went. I think I reeled for like 20 or 30 minutes. It was a beautiful 100 or so pound White Marlin.

I ate a lot of food, drank a lot of drinks, drank Moet for the first time, got nipped at Nippers and made an ass of myself, island hopped, got an amazing tan, got caught in a storm on a dinghy, and was wading waste high when two Lemon Sharks decided to show up. It was awesome and what vacations are suppose to be made of.