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

Still Feeling Grande!

Written by Patti on August 11th, 2011

Good Morning Darlings!

Snakes, alligators, turtles, herons, otters – what could they have to do with The Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes, Orlando?

These critters can all be seen during the Eco-Tour on the hotel property. Holly and I arose early for a morning of canoeing with Mr. Mike, our nature guide. Now, I have done plenty of canoeing in my life, but it had been a while since I had taken an oar and hit the water. Mike shoved Holly and I off in our large canoe and followed to keep an eye on us.

Is it like riding a bicycle? Well, no. There was plenty of girlish giggling and rowing in circles before we got it down. But once we did, we were rewarded with a trip on the water that felt miles away from civilization. I can’t recall the last time I visited a place that was so serenely quiet.

Holly takes a photo of me from the back of the canoe (not really me…)

Are there that many animals to be seen? Yes, this is Florida, after all, and Grande Lakes is built on 500 ecologically protected acres. We saw some cool birds and lots of tiny fish, but no gators or snakes this trip (whew!)

When the Eco-Tour was finished we had a bit of lunch at Club Level (you must book Club Level if you go), and met up with our friend, Michelle, for a tour of the Royal Suite. They might want to change the name to the “Oh My Gosh” Suite, because that is what came out of our mouths at every turn. This 4,293 square-foot retreat has it all. No need to ever leave with the 4 bedrooms, four and one half bathrooms, eight balconies, a media room, a dining room that seats 10 and the swankiest wet bar I have ever seen.

Honestly, no photograph could ever do this suite justice. You just have to reserve it for a night. At $10,000 per night, I won’t be staying here until that winning lottery ticket pays off, but I can dream! It was delicious fun just to tour it with Michelle.

We got pretty swoony visiting the suite, so Hol and I decided to cool off with a trip down the lazy river at the JW Marriott, which adjoins the Ritz and where guests have pool privileges (that’s 3 different pools to choose from!)

A day on the lazy river.

All that water fun works up an appetite, so it is time to get out of the pool and up to the room to get ready for dinner.

Primo is our dining destination. An offshoot of Melissa Kelly’s Victorian mansion in Rockland, Maine, the Orlando eatery features an organic garden in keeping with the “home-grown” concept. Holly and I had the opportunity to tour the garden before dinner with pastry chef C.R.

Chef C.R. in the garden he built.

Chef Kelly works with the Florida Organic Growers Association to ensure she sources only the freshest ingredients.

Back at our cozy table, we were doted on by Donna, who was not only professional, but lots of fun. Cocktails started the evening – a Peach Bellini for me and a special Primo Mojito for Hol. Yum.

Charred Florida Octopus with a fingerling potato salad, carmellini beans, Meyer lemon & pesto was first course heaven. The octopus was the tenderest I have ever experienced. We knew we were in perfect hands for the rest of the meal. Nothing to do but sit back and enjoy.

Perfectly cooked octopus.

Between courses the fabulous bread kept us nibbling.

Holly chose the Hand-Rolled Ricotta Cavatelli with grilled sherry marinated chicken, wild mushrooms, fresh peas and parmesan brodo. Fabulous.

Holly’s cavatelli

Feeling luxurious after that tour of the Royal Suite, I ordered the Butter Poached Maine Lobster served over a butternut squash & brown butter flan, toasted pumpkin seeds, sage, and lobster broth. A butternut squash & brown butter flan? Sign me up. Luscious.

I loved how the toasty crunch of the seeds complimented the creamy flan.

“No Dessert” was our mantra. That is, until they brought us the cutest little cannoli and then offered a trio of ice cream sandwiches. Maybe just a little, we thought.

The sweetest little cannoli.

The Trio of Ice Cream Sandwiches was so yummy, yet so ample that the last sandwich was melting rapidly by the time we got to it. This feeds at least three, so be prepared to share.

Lemon Wafer w/Strawberry Gelato, Brownie w/Pistachio Gelato & Turtle w/Chocolate Gelato

Thanks goodness there is a good trek from Primo to Club Level, where we had to have one last glass of champagne before our trip was over. Nicole & Jason had taken amazingly great care of us during our visit in Club Level and we almost couldn’t bear to say goodbye.

Miss Nicole, offering more treats before bedtime.

Two very happy campers.

Before bed, we were treated to fireworks on our balcony via Universal Studios. Now, that’s how you end a vacation.

Michelle, Cecilia, Cory, Nicole, Jason, Mike, Amanda & Amy, Juan Carlos, Yusuf, Fernando, Donna, C.R. and everyone else we met at The Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes, Orlando – we cannot thank you enough for your fantastic hospitality. And, the nice fellow we met in the elevator as we were checking out, who rushed to make sure we had 8 icy cold bottles of water for our drive back, you are the epitome of Ritz-Carlton caring. No wonder I love this organization SO much.

Go. Go now and do all the wonderful things this property has to offer. It is a fast 7 hour drive from Atlanta. Plug in your iPod and you are there in no time.

xoxo, Patti

Today blogging to Jimmy Buffett – Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude


2 Comments so far ↓

  1. Lisa says:

    What fun — I’ve been wanting to go to Primo in Maine for a long time now…This would be much closer!

  2. Patti says:

    The food was really top notch, Lisa!