Anatomy of a Dinner Party: a day in the life of a hospitalityaholic

A Grande Time In Orlando

Written by Patti on August 10th, 2011

Good Morning Darlings!

As we continue our week of Ritz-Carlton magic, we arrive in Orlando at The Ritz-Carlton, Grande Lakes.

This time, bestie Holly went with me on a very fun road trip from Atlanta to the big Orange. We made it there in record time. Club Level was waiting with an icy flute of champagne before we ambled down to the Spa for our treatments.

Regally rising like a Queen far enough from International Drive.

The wonderful Michelle Valle, Director of PR for the property escorted us to the Spa where we were greeted by Juan Carlos Gonzalez, Spa Concierge. The 40,000 square feet Spa was voted #3 Best Resort Spa by Conde’ Nast Traveler and Holly & I thought it was tops. A sign above the spa entrance reads, “In hoc limine relinque mundum,” which, roughly translated means, ‘in this entrance, abandon the world.’ This is not a difficult task as Holly & I would soon see.

Enter and let all your cares slip away.

I opted for the East Indian Lime Scalp and Body Massage during which my new friend Amanda used a special recipe of warmed lime blossom and ginger oil to bliss me out for an entire 80 minutes. Only my snoring got in the way. I felt like melted butter when it was all done. Holly chose a facial and looked radiant when she emerged. The spa offers a private pool, but we only had a little bit of time to get back to the room and ready for dinner at Norman’s, the award-winning restaurant featuring celebrity Chef Norman Van Aken’s acclaimed New World Cuisine as the culinary centerpiece. Fusion of Latin, Caribbean and Asian recipes with traditional European technique. Our charming server, Cory, let us know that we were going off-menu. To me, this is as exciting as off-roading for the outdoor set. Something exciting and new was upon us. It turned out to be a marathon of gastronomy, turned out by Chef Fernando, only 21 years old and gifted with an incredible culinary talent. Let me spell it out for you.

Cory made sure the evening ran smooth as silk.

First Course: Deckle cut beef – pickled daikon radishes – kissimmee carrot – whipped beef fat ponzu. I’m embarrassed to say we were so wowed by this that I neglected to take a photo. Sorry, Darlings.

Second Course: Red & Yellow Beets ~ Chevre ~ Florida Sweet Corn Ice Cream over Chopped Pistachios. I loved this dish. And I have never had corn ice cream. Amazing.

Yes, that's corn ice cream. Delicious.

Third Course: Key West Shrimp Ceviche ~ Roasted Tomato & Red Pepper Reduction ~ Lime

I just love shrimp! And Key West Shrimp - even better.

Between courses we learned about Cory, who is training to becoming a sommelier. There are eight sommeliers in training (called Guilds) at Norman’s. We also discussed other chefs and some of our favorite dishes and restaurants.

Back to the courses!

Course Four: Brazilian Styled Creamy Cracked Conch Chowder/Saffrom ~ Orange ~ Sweet Peppers ~ Potatoes ~ A Coconut ‘Cloud’. At this point, Holly and I voted this our favorite course. The conch is seared a bit to caramelize it and then set on top of the vegetables. Then a clam and mussel cream soup is poured over the entire dish. So good.

Happy Taste Buds all around the table!

Course Five: Now they are just testing us by putting two entrees on one serving plate.

Pan Cooked Fillet Of Key West Yellowtail/Asparagus Spears ~ Citrus Butter Sauce ~ “Belly” of Garlicky Mashed Potatoes

Rhum and Pepper Painted Grouper/Mango Moto ~ Cuban Sweet Potato Mash En Poblano

The yellowtail blew me away. Incredible. But at course five we are getting a bit sated. But we are not quitters!

A little fish for me, and a little fish, too!

Course Six: Are you still with me? It’s time for meat!

Pork Tenderloin ~ Haitian Grits ~ Black Bean Salsa
Rib Eye ~ Roasted Fingerling Potatoes in Duck Fat ~ Shimeji Mushrooms

Meat and potatoes - gourmet style.

Both dished were luscious and rich. I was continually wowed by the ingenuity Chef Fernando was displaying. I had never heard of shimeji mushrooms. Getting to try a totally new ingredient in such capable hands is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

You know there has to be a couple of dessert courses, right?

Course Seven: Guava Ice Cream ~ Mango Sorbet ~ Ricotta ~ Fresh Black Pepper

This was just fresh and light enough to not weigh us down. Perfect.

Fresh, light and tasting like the tropics.

Course Eight: One last treat.

Key Lime Cocktail ~ Key Lime Pie ~ Dolce De Leche Ice Cream. Fantastic.

Tell the truth - how can I say no to this?

Holly & I were spoiled and pampered within an inch of our lives by Cory, Yusuf, Laura and Chef Fernando. It is easy to get used to.

Chef Fernando and me.

Tomorrow, we take up canoeing. Heaven help us.

xoxo, Patti

Today blogging to Jimmy Buffett – Floridays


3 Comments so far ↓

  1. Holly says:

    Ohh – just was re-living the decadence…still clicking my heels to see if I can go back. What a wonderful time!

  2. Patti says:

    Holly, you are a dream to travel with! What fun! xoxo, P

  3. Lisa says:

    I hope you took photos of your canoe adventure! Can’t wait to see them.

    There really is nothing that compares to a road trip with a girlfriend.