Jeremiahs Italian Ice

Exterior

Salted caramel and vanilla

**** (4 stars)

A wide range of flavors, plus the ability to interleave them with vanilla (the result is strangely called gelato, but it isn’t) is the draw here.

I really liked the combination of salted caramel and vanilla, and it was a very generous serving for the price.

Jeremiahs Italian Ice
3150 S Orange Ave
Orlando, FL 32806
(407) 757-0427
https://www.yelp.com/biz/jeremiahs-italian-ice-orlando-4

State and Lake Chicago Tavern

**** (4 stars)

At first glance this place appears to be a fairly ordinary tavern likely to have a sports bar menu, but the food and ambience are both better than that. The stylish surroundings and pleasant lighting create a relaxed dining environment, and the menu offers some interesting and healthful items.

Yes, they’re known for their hamburgers and pretzels, but I had something completely different. I started with the charred broccoli, a generous serving that’s lightly seasoned and nicely cooked, although I could have done with a bit more char.

As a main course I had the Cobb salad. I like it when a Cobb is served un-tossed, as was the case here, allowing me to pick and combine ingredients at will. The perfectly seasoned avocado, bacon, cubes of Parmesan cheese and house-made ranch dressing were standouts.

Service was friendly and attentive. Altogether the meal was a very pleasant surprise.

State and Lake Chicago Tavern
theWit Hotel
201 N State St
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 239-9400
http://www.yelp.com/biz/state-and-lake-chicago-tavern-chicago

Grace Restaurant

***** (5 stars)

Grace is certainly deserving of its two Michelin stars. Everything about the experience is near perfection, from the extremely professional yet friendly service to the plating of the food, which turns each dish into an individual work of art, combining delicate and varied flavors in surprising and visually appealing ways.

The dining room is sophisticated, understated, and calm, a serenity that extends even into the visible kitchen, yet the contemporary soundtrack keeps the experience upbeat and fun.

My only quibble is with the winelist, which has a strong focus on wines from the Loire region, not my favorite.  This focus extends to the wine pairings served with the meal, some of which didn’t seem a great match, although the friendly and articulate sommelier explained the reasoning behind each match in such a captivating manner I was glad we had selected the pairing, even if next time I will strike out on my own.

Grace Restaurant
652 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60661
(312) 234-9494
http://www.yelp.com/biz/grace-restaurant-chicago

Linz and Vail on Central

**** (4 stars)

This place has the atmosphere I’m looking for in a coffee house, and also makes some excellent coffee. The Macchiato is perfect, not a trace of bitterness. Also some great gelato. Ignore that Starbucks down the street; this is the real deal.

Linz and Vail on Central
2012 Central St
Evanston, IL 60201
(847) 475-1381
http://www.yelp.com/biz/linz-and-vail-on-central-evanston

Qarma Crêpes

**** (4 stars)

This is a cozy little place with great service and a nice assortment of both savory and sweet crepes. The crepes themselves are fairly thin, and have a slight sweetness to the batter, particularly around the thin edges. They are folded in half before stuffing, which gives them more body, but they still remain light and fluffy.

I had a vegetarian crepe, which allowed me to pick an assortment of fillings, plus smoked Gouda cheese and lemon mayo drizzle. The veggies were raw, which gave the crepe a nice, fresh character.

The sweet crepes also looked delicious, I’ll have to save room on a return visit.

There are a few tables outside, and plenty inside, and also up in a loft accessed via a spiral staircase.

Qarma Crêpes
12 N Summerlin Ave
Orlando, FL 32801
(407) 403-5549
http://www.yelp.com/biz/qarma-cr%C3%AApes-orlando

The Dessert Lady

***** (5 stars)

Finally, a good location! After years in low traffic, obscure spots, it’s nice the see The Dessert Lady back in Southwest Orange County, and this time in a spot that’s visible and fairly high traffic.

This is a much lighter and more welcoming location than the previous ones, although this one is mainly take-out. That’s fine, because I always felt like I needed a few people to help me finish one of her desserts. And of course there’s no such thing as just one; any visit requires a sampling!

I’ve actually never had anything here I didn’t like. As long as you’re not looking for something “light” you’ll be happy you tried it.

The Dessert Lady
7600 Dr. Phillips Blvd
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 999-5696
http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-dessert-lady-orlando-5

Benoit

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**** (4 stars)

Benoit is a traditional French Brasserie in every way: ambiance, food and service. Our favorites here include the charcuterie plate and the whole roasted chicken for two. Ironically, we’ve had the whole roasted chicken at Alan Ducasse’s thee star Michelin Louis XIV in Monte Carlo, and this one is much better! We avoid Sunday brunch, because they don’t have the same menu, therefore no roast chicken.

Benoit
60 W 55th St
New York, NY 10019
(646) 943-7373
http://www.yelp.com/biz/benoit-new-york

Burger 21

**** (4 stars)

Had the 4.5 oz BBQ Bacon burger. Perfectly cooked burger with plenty of accompaniments. I also liked the condiment bar. Fries are thin, served very hot, and have a good flavor. A large was enough for six of us. Lots of interesting choices.

Service here was very friendly, from the greeter at the front door to the person who delivered the food. One of our party claimed the wrong burger when they were delivered (his error) and they wasted no time in making another one for the person who ordered it. Definitely a candidate for top burger in Orlando.

Burger 21
4192 Conroy Rd
Orlando, FL 32839
(407) 203-2848
http://www.yelp.com/biz/burger-21-orlando

Peperoncino

***** (5 stars)

This is about as close as you can get to authentic Italian food in Orlando. The ingredients are fresh, and many of them are imported. In fact, you know you’re in for a treat from the moment they put down the fresh bread, because the olive oil it’s drizzled with is sublime, and the dusting of grated cheese packs a ton of flavor into each bite.

We tried the antipasto plate, which had a wonderful pecorino cheese studded with black pepper–probably the best pecorino I’ve had. I’m not much of a meat person, but my wife liked all of the meats on the plate.

We also had the mussels, which were served in a tomato sauce that had very fresh tomato pieces. I’m betting these came from Italy, as they weren’t the American kind that you can bounce into a semi truck.

The pictures on the website show lots of fish and shellfish dishes, but the only fish dish I could find was the special, a snapper cooked in parchment, served with shellfish. The snapper was (mostly) de-boned at tableside. It was moist, but a bit of a pain to eat, and the shellfish wasn’t as good as the mussel appetizer.

Perperoncino is tiny, bright and noisy, not my first choice of ambiance, but on nice evenings the restaurant doubles its size by expanding onto the plaza it fronts. That’s the ticket for a truly authentic Italian meal.

Peperoncino
7988 Via Dellagio Way
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 440-2856
http://www.yelp.com/biz/peperoncino-orlando