Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Top 10 Tips for the Art Festival

Downtown has got a busy hum to it this week as the merchants prepare for the big Art Festival this weekend. As a local, I thought I'd offer some tips for visitors.

  1. Arrive Early! During the Craft Fair this past October, I took my dog for a walk around 9:00 a.m. and the crowds were not yet bumping shoulders in the streets. Getting here that early provides you with ample time to find excellent parking, grab a cup of coffee and meander the streets as the vendors tidy up any last minute details before the official start time at 10:00. You'll also be able to get a much better view of the artwork if you are in a more serious buying mood.
  2. Wear comfortable shoes. There is a lot to see spread out all throughout the town. And, if you've never been here before we do have quite a bit of an incline on some of our streets. They don't call us "Mount" Dora for nothing.
  3. Bring some canvas shopping bags. If you got bags on wheels, even better. As you make your purchases, you'll be thankful that you have something to carry them all in. There is a great little store on Donnelly called Whispering Winds that sells expandable market bags. What I love about these is that you can bunch them up into a ball and throw them in your purse ... but they expand big enough to hold about four beach towels.
  4. Bring a bottled water and a snack. We do have some great restaurants and coffee shops downtown, however the crowds will get big around lunchtime. The food will definitely be worth the wait. But if you plan on making a day of this event then you'll be happy you have a little something to hold you over.
  5. Don't forget your sunglasses. I've done this one before. It's kind of annoying to have to squint and cup your hands over your eyes to see anything. Even better ... wear a hat.
  6. Wear sunscreen. Even though you will probable slip into some shops and restaurants downtown, most of the festival is outdoors.
  7. Do not bring your pets. Only dogs used for medical purposes will be permitted. Othewise, you'll get all the way here and be turned away at the baracades.
  8. Bring cash or your check book. There are usually some art vendors that accept credit cards ... but you don't want to test your luck. There is a walk-up ATM at the Bank of America on the corner of Alexandar & 5th in case you forget.
  9. If you want to wheel-n-deal it is better to come later in the afternoon on Sunday.
  10. Most importantly ... HAVE FUN! This is a fantastic event with over 285 artists from around the world. And this time of year should bestow great weather for the weekend.


Monday, January 28, 2008

Thanks a Latte!

Monday, Mondaaaay. The beginning of the week ... time to get stuff done, make our plans and get back to the daily grind. Grind? Hmm ... reminds me of coffee grinds! We love a good reason/excuse to walk downtown and get a caffeine fix. And after a productive morning we sure deserved the break.

Downtown has a lot of little "nooks & crannies." One of those is Dora Drawdy way ... a little brick pavered alley off of 4th Avenue. There you will find several little shops and places to eat. Our destination today was the Mount Dora Coffee House for a good cup of joe. Which makes me ask the question ... where did the term "joe" come from when referencing coffee??? If you know, please comment!

This little coffee house is warm and welcoming. It has all the right ingredients of a great coffee house ... tucked away in a quiet alley, earthy paint colors & decor, cool music, and GREAT coffee. There are tables and chairs both indoors and outdoors to provide you with space to either sit & read, play a game or chat it up with some friends.

Thanks for the pick-me-up! Now, back to the daily grind ...
Brian & Rachelle

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Pickin' Strawberries

The grey skies stayed dry! So we were able to make it to the strawberry fields after all. Strawberries are one of my favorite fruits, so I was so excited to find out that Oak Haven Farms is only 3 miles away from my downtown home where I can pick my own berries.

I may have lived in the city for 10 years, but I'm just a country girl at heart. I was tickled to be out on a farm today breathing in some fresh air, enjoying some home-made strawberry shortcake and taking in the views.

You guys out there need to take note ... this would make a FANTASTIC Valentine's date. Or at least that's what us girls decided while sitting around a fire roasting our hot dog lunch. Add a picnic basket, bottle of champagne and some chocolate to these strawberry fields and you're going to win an award for Man of the Year.

It's a great family thing too. Some friends of mine met me out here today with their two sons and it was quite a big deal for them to climb on tractors and play in the dirt. There is even two playgrounds for kids to climb up on things or go for a swing.

When I was in Italy they called things like this Agri-Tourismo. I guess we can call it Agri-Entertainment. Definitely make your plans to get out here soon because strawberry season ends in mid-April.


Saturday Morning Market

My original plan today was to go strawberry picking ... but I decided to wait out the grey weather and go shopping. I love a good Farmer's Market and we've got a great one here in Mount Dora at the Renniger's twin markets. I've been to the antique market many times to pick up hardware and other odds & ends, but it had been awhile since I've been to the flea market side.

This is the king of all farmer's markets. A huge selection of fresh seafood, meats and fresh produce & plants including some from local farms. And of course, everything is such a bargain. I bought a pound of greenbeans for a dollar. My favorite vendor in the foodie section is someone I affectionately call "the local honey man." Henry Parker's Sweet Thing Honey Plantation of Eustis brings to the market a variety of honeys including Tupelo, Orange Blossom and local Wildflower which will be fantastic for taming my allergies.

Sprinkled throughout the market you'll find more than just the usual flea market trinkets. There is homemade fudge, fresh-baked breads, old-fashioned candies, exotic birds, crafts, furniture and antiques.

My only tip would be to bring some bags with you, sort of like the cloth re-usable grocery bags. I have a ton of these at home and was kicking myself for not bringing them. I ended up buying one of those little canvas bags with wheels for about $5.00 to save myself from dropping my newly purchased glass jars full of honey.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Give A Toast!

A new Toastmasters group has formed here in Mount Dora and it is quite a lively and enthusiastic group! Have you ever given a toast? Does public speaking make your knees shake? Would you like to be a better communicator? Then this is the group for you.

Friendly, fun and informative, Mount Dora Toastmasters meet every Wednesday at 5:30 at the Mount Dora Country Club.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Chew Chew Express...

It can be a trick finding a place in downtown Mount Dora to have breakfast on a weekday. We discovered a great little place within walking distance to everything and a great view of Lake Dora looking down the street while we eat outside in the gorgeous weather.

Welcome to the Chew Chew Express Sandwich Depot owned and operated by Mark and Tracie. They have a great breakfast and lunch menu with great service to boot. Rachelle and I always get the same thing when we go, a whopping egg and ham sandwich on Texas toast and a heaping cup of coffee. Yum, yum!

They are located on 3rd Ave. right next to the train station where you can also jump on board after breakfast or lunch for a rail tour of Mount Dora and Tavares. They are nearly finished with some extensive renovations which include a very nice indoor seating area. Stay tuned and we'll bring you photos of that on a future visit.

Be sure to visit Mark and Tracie at the Chew Chew Express.


Brian & Rachelle

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Yay Sushi!

FINALLY! We don't have to drive to Lake Mary for a genuine sushi experience. The new Mt. Dora Sushi Company opened today. Amazingly authentic ... from the Buddha Zen garden entry, the Asian inspired artwork, the friendly staff, and the fresh and tasty sushi. They offer a wide variety of rolls all prepared by Tokyo sushi chef, Takashi Kobayahi.

I tried a couple of vegetarian rolls tonight that I've not seen in other Japanese cuisine restaurants. They were the tempura sweet potato roll and the mushroom roll. Delish. My favorite, however, was the Mount Dora Roll. Salmon, tuna, avocado, nari, wasabi and an explosion of crab meat all arranged perfectly like a little piece of art.

Speaking of art ... all of the Asian-inspired creative works displayed are for sale. Groovy.

Healthy fast finger food available whenever you get the craving. Definitely stop by this new place. Order the Mount Dora Roll.


From Mt. Dora Sushi

Brian, Rachelle & Friends

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Impromptu surprise at the 5th Ave Cafe!!!

I suppose you better get used to seeing blogs about the 5th Ave Cafe at our site on a regular basis. In addition to being a fabulous place to eat and seek entertainment we just happen to be great pals with the owner.
We were in a non-cooking mood this evening so we wandered downtown to check out the action. I remembered that the 5th Ave Cafe was featuring Julie Black for entertainment this evening. A simple Google of that name will bring up an endless list of information pertaining to her accomplishments in the entertainment business!

Rachelle says she reminded her of Joss Stone. The entertainment was so fabulous I bought a CD which I got signed by Julie Black herself. Check her out at and I can assure you that you won't regret it.

The entertainment was made even better paired with Stags Leap Petite Syrah wine and blackened chicken pasta. Dare I say "heaven on Earth"?

Rachelle had the Sun-dried Tomato Tofu Streusel which she says was "to live for!" Followed by a "Mary-made" cappuccino. If you want a European style cappuccino in Mount Dora ... you must go to 5th Ave and ask for Mary.

Pay a visit to the 5th Ave Cafe next time you are in town. They accept the Discount Card. Check out their menu at

Cheers from the 5th Ave Cafe,


Friday, January 18, 2008

Beep! Beep!

I was reminded today of one of the reasons why I moved to Mount Dora. Traffic! Or lack there of when I'm in my home town. I had to head up to Altamonte Springs for a couple of meetings today and was sitting on 436 bumper to bumper with a slight case of road rage. The 429 to Orlando is a breeze and a quick ride compared to 436. Luckily I had some nice tunes playing from a cd of Armond and Angelina that I picked up at their last performance at 5th Avenue Cafe. That calmed me down a bit and made me so thankful to be on my way home where I rarely (if ever) have to sit in traffic.

Now ... I have to confess that it is because I usually walk everywhere. But, even when I have to drive down 441 in Mount Dora heading to Tavares, Eustis or Leesburg I never have to experience the chaos of the roads I was on today. Whew!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Southern Cookin' ...

Though not normally my thing I had a hankering for some good ole fashioned Southern Style BBQ this evening. We decided to try out the new place in Mount Dora that opened up where Dixie Crossroads used to be and is now known as Backyard Boys Bar-B-Que.

The place was hopping busy but we were able to be seated right away. It was very much a family atmosphere inside the restaurant and the staff were all super nice and friendly.

Don't let the word "family" deter you if you are suddenly having visions of Disneyland or the like. I noticed on the way in a full service bar with plenty of seats. Looks like you can have a few drinks without disturbing a soul inside..

Mount Dora is the third location for Backyard Boys BBQ. They have a location in Orlando and one in Sanford. Appears to me as if they have a formula for success. Our server told us they make all four flavors of the BBQ sauce on the premises and they were all great.

I ordered the pulled pork and a baked sweet potato that I thought was fabulous. Rachelle had the sliced pork and I know she thought it was great because I wasn't even offered a sample before it totally disappeared from her plate. There were many great choices on the menu.

Notice the size of the water "jars" we were served in. I actually got nervous when I ordered a Killian's Red from the tap. No cause for concern though as you see in the adjacent photo, the beer came in a "mini me" version of the water jar.

Next time BBQ is on your mind I recommend a visit to the new Backyard Boys BBQ.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wine Down Wednesday...

What can one do in Mount Dora on a Wednesday evening? How about "Wine Down Wednesday" at Maggie's Attic. Live entertainment, great food, great people and most importantly, lots of wine. Some folks do drink beer of course. Whatever your taste Maggie's will have something to please your palate for sure.

We decided to grab the camera and wander down to Arbors and Eyebrows to check out the festivities. We were entertained by Port Barlow, jazz guitarist while we enjoyed wine and conversation with a lively group of folks. Wine Down Wednesday is a weekly event at Maggie's Attic and I highly recommend it!

In addition to this event, Maggie's hosts 2 wine tasting events each month. Turn out is always great and the food is fabulous. You can also sign up to be a member of their wine of the month club and have vino delivered directly to your door. Nothing like sipping your favorite wine in your favorite chair.

For more details on these and other events please visit their website at for more details or give them a call at 352-383-5451.


Brian & Rachelle
from Wine Down Wednesday

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Splish Splash

This one might be only for local interest, but I just had to say how excited I was about the new carwash over on the corner of Donnelly & 441. One of the things I missed about the "big city" when I moved here was a quality car wash. And I'm not talking about just one of those gas station drive through thing-a-mobobbies. I'm talking about a vacuum, tire shine, window sparkle and towel dried in 15 minutes kind of convenience. I used to plan my vehicular cleaning around my trips to Orlando and Winter Park. But now I thankfully can just drive up the street. And when it comes to price and the shine ... this super wash blows the others out of the water.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Adora Inn Monthly Wine Tasting

Welcome to the Adora Inn, the "Boutique" Bed & Breakfast in Mount Dora owned and operated by Arthur Natale and John Cataldo. In addition to their numerous talents they happen to have a flair for fine cuisine and fine wine. They certainly qualify as poster children for the term "foodies" and on a monthly basis they put their talents to work and host a fabulous multi-course meal fit for kings.

Reservations for this event are limited to around 20 people so I suggest you book early. Check the Adora Inn website for the schedule of upcoming events. Some of us locals have standing reservations and the remaining spots fill quickly. None of us locals are likely to surrender our spots at the table so book now or risk reading about it in a future post once again!

Last night's menu was an interesting adventure featuring Arabic influenced cuisine paired with French Wine.

The opening course was a mixed green salad with pickled beets and goats cheese in cumin vinaigrette. The wine pairing was a Claude Lafond, Valencay White. A Chardonnay and Sauvignon mix.

The second course was a Turkish zucchini-herb pancake with yogurt sauce. This was paired with a Pinot Gris by Claude Lafond.

The main course consisted of a rack of lamb in Arabic spices with potatoes and asparagus. This paired very nicely with a red wine from Caves de Laudun, Cotes du Rhone Village. This fine red wine is a mix of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan.

Lastly we were served a rose scented rice pudding with pistachios in a wine goblet. This was fabulously paired with a Dom Thomas, Vouvray Moelleux Chenin Blan. My personal favorite pairing of the evening for sure!

If you enjoy fine wine, fine food and fine company then you need to make plans to attend an upcoming event at the Adora Inn. Special thanks once again to Arthur, John, Marie and staff for another fine dining experience at the Adora Inn.

The wine pairings for these events are provided by The Wine Cellars of Mount Dora. Check out their operation at where you can purchase wine online or join the wine club and enjoy wine delivered to your front door.

Good night from the Adora Inn.



Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sunday ... Rainy Sunday

We haven't had many cool, rainy days this winter in Florida but today was an exception. The first thing that came to mind after walking outside was "comfort food"! It was time to visit the Frosty Mug Icelandic Restaurant & Bar.

Rachelle and I had a craving for some hot and spicy "Icelandic Style Chili" and from past experience I knew that Frosty Mug had the right stuff. Oddly enough I still can't say for sure what constitutes "Icelandic Chili"?

Unfortunately for us the bad news came via the announcement that chili was not on the lunch menu today. We had to settle for some "Icelandic Style" French Onion Soup. It was fabulous and hit the spot right away! It must be the heaping pile of onion rings on top that makes it "Icelandic"? Are the onions grown on the "chilly" frozen tundra? I promise to query the owner next chance I get.

There are a number of authentic Icelandic recipes on the menu so I naturally assume that everything must have some sort of Icelandic flair. My personal favorite has to be the Gravlax. I will save the description and let you discover it on your own next time you come to town.

The Frosty Mug is a fabulous place located in downtown Mount Dora on the corner of 4th Ave. and Donnelly St. They were rated #9 of 10 top quirkiest places in the country to spend Christmas by Virtual Check out the link for Virtual Tourist Press Release: .

I spend a fair amount of time in this fine establishment. It is a wonderful place to do business, watch sporting events, hang out and kill some time or forget your worries over a few mugs of fine European beer straight out of the tap. Ms. Bonnie, my favorite bartender, will see to your every need!

I can assure you this won't be the last post I do from this location. Be sure and check it out and don't forget to take your Discount Card with you.

Cheers from the Frosty Mug,


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Movies & Cappuccino

Gazed off the balcony of One Flight Up again this evening for a pre-movie cappuccino. I love the sound of the horse and carriage trotting through town. They must be pretty busy this time of year because we saw several carriage rides during our brief coffee break. A wedding couple even went by and the whole street cheered. Nothing like starting off your marriage in parade-like fashion with onlookers wishing you luck.

We began the night with the wedding reminding us of the new starts we get in life. After seeing the The Bucket List, we finished the evening with inspiration to not wait until the end of our lives to live them.


Friday, January 11, 2008

Inaugural Art Stroll

Tonight we "strolled" at the Inaugural Mount Dora Downtown Art Stroll. What a fantastic event!!! A Friday night full of fun, music, wine & entertainment featuring local and regional artists. The participation and turn out was so great that it was a little overwhelming, as there seemed to be so much more to see than what I could do in only two hours.
The first stop was the Mount Dora Center for the Arts. Greeted by a white baby grand piano and a glass of wine ... I knew this was going to be a great night. The building is a work of historical art in and of itself with it's tin ceilings and original hardwood floors. The event flowed nicely through the room leading everyone to the outdoor courtyard where you could have a glass of wine and watch an artist at work.
Next we walked over to the Renaissance Building where artwork was displayed throughout the main hall where a young woman entertained us with her flute. This exhibit gave an opportunity for young artists to be seen, featuring works from local students.
We walked down the back brick alley to Lauren Cunningham's studio and then to Arbors & Eyebrows where a lot of artists were selling small prints and cards. I love it when you can find unusual and artistic stationary to write thank you notes.
We shimmied on over to the Chamber of Commerce for the 4th stop and after taking a look around and saying hello to friends and familiar faces we walked up the street to Mount Dora Coffee House for a quick caffeine kick before heading to the last Art display on the corner of Baker and 4th. This was definitely my ideal way to spend a Friday night. I'm looking forward to the future Art Strolls.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Spring Cleaning in January

Did some Spring cleaning today. Okay ... I know it's winter ... but the 80 degree weather made it feel like spring.

Had to make some room for new energy efficient appliances in our basement. Yes, I did say basement. Part of our goal this year is to make our house green and eco-friendly. This new washer reduces energy usage by 58% and water usage by 38%. That should be a significant utility savings considering how much laundry we do. To put the icing on the cupcake, we're also switching to gas and getting a tankless water heater. I was really impressed at how many incentives and rebates there are to make these green upgrades. I think it's fantastic that there is encouragement out there to go green.

Back to the basement ... it is hard to find any handyman/contractor/etc. that knows or understands anything about the maintenance of a basement here in Florida. They usually think I'm kidding when I say I have one. It's actually quite common here in Mount Dora. I mean, we are a "mount" after all.


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Going Global

We had a great meeting this morning with our web team. In the past month we've had visitors to our site from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Germany, Puerto Rico, South Africa, Venezuela and the Bahamas. We're global baby!

It makes a lot of sense that we would appeal to a world market. We have an English tea room, an Icelandic pub, a French cafe, an Italian pottery store, an African home furnishings store, a German deli & bakery, an Irish shop, a Key West shop, a Town Cobbler, a variety of cafes, brick alley ways, breathtaking water views, and wine available from every country. Need I say more? Can I brag that it's all walking distance to my front door?


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Evening Stroll

After spending the day in Orlando, it was nice to come home to just a quiet little evening downtown. We went for a walk and watched people learning how to waltz and dance around in the Donnelly building, families having a dinner picnic in the park and visitors window shopping while eating ice cream.

We ended up sipping tea on the balcony at One Flight Up while watching more small-town evening activities commence below us. It's a great view of all that is happening on Donnelly and it was nice to just sit, relax and enjoy the quietness of it all.

While we were walking home I noticed some postings for an "artist's studio apartment" available for rent downtown. I don't know what it is about the marketing of an "artist's studio"... or maybe the interesting organization of furniture I saw today at Ikea ... that for a fleeting moment I wanted to live in a 500 square foot apartment. Sounds kind of cool & romantic to live in a "studio" above a storefront and to be able to trot downtown and wave hello to the locals and grab a cup of coffee. But wait a minute here ... I can already trot downtown, wave "hi" to the locals and grab a cup of coffee and I live in a 2000 square foot cottage. What was I thinking?


Monday, January 7, 2008

Ruby Reds

I was looking at the last couple of posts and I realized all of the titles are food related. So, I'm going to attempt to not make this post about food. (Crickets: chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp ...)

Okay, so I live in a town where most of my friends and neighbors are foodies and winos. I've learned more about wine while living here than I ever would have reading my book "Wine for Dummies" cover to cover. There is only one real way to learn, and that is through experience. Sip. Sip. Sip.

With no less than 8 locales to purchase fine wine within walking distance of my front door, I've become a bit of a lush. For instance, this evening we're sipping on a Spanish Protocolo. This is the type of wine that makes you bring your fingers to you lips and blow a kiss into the air like any tipsy European would. I would describe it as having a fruity nose, very berry, medium-bodied, low acidity. Kind of like a pinot noir, but better. Love the tempranillo grape. Love it. Love it. Love it.


Sunday, January 6, 2008

Antiques & Espresso

I don't know what it is about the first of the year, but I just can't sit still. Having a head cold and being couped up the past couple of days had me bopping around the house today like a 5 year old on 3 shots of espresso and a bag of Oreos.

After meeting a good friend of mine for breakfast this morning and drinking a half a pot of coffee I probably didn't need, I zipped over to Rennigers Antique market to run an errand and start back on my "1st of the Year" to-do list. Okay, picture again a 5 year old on 3 shots of espresso and a bag of Oreos ... around antiques.

Rennigers is only open on the weekends, so I was really in a pinch to get over there today. This place is like a museum and I need to come back to it again when I've got more time and I'm in a more mellow mood. I was quite impressed that I could find a replacement for the broken screws on a circa 1930 glass doorknob. Can't exactly just go to your local giant home improvement store to find stuff like that now, can you?


Saturday, January 5, 2008

Sorbet Sunset

Getting over an allergy attack/head cold today. I finally felt well enough to venture out this evening to walk my dog down to the lake and catch a classic Florida sunset. If you live in Florida, then you know the type ... swirls of oranges, hot pinks and lavender. I'll have to remember to bring my camera next time.


Friday, January 4, 2008

An Apple A Day ...

Feeling a little under the weather today, so I went up to our local health food store to see what kind of healthy, natural nip-it-in-the-bud concoction I could find. I ended up choosing a mix of carrot, beet, celery, ginger and apple juice with a shot of wheat grass locally grown. To be honest, it didn't sound too appetizing. But I don't have time to be sick, so miracle cures on on my menu tonight.

The whole thing was made right in front of me. I had the equivalent to 6 carrots, one whole apple, 4 celery stalks, some beets and a slice of ginger all in a sippy cup. Why don't parents use this trick on their kids? The juice ended up looking kind of ... groovy. Bright red with some green swirls and orange foamy bubbles. I know that doesn't paint a pretty picture, but it actually tasted pretty good. And I swear I wasn't plugging my nose to gulp it down. It's flavor was more on the apple/carrot juice side than any other ingredient.

So now I'm off to drink my 3rd cup of wellness tea so I'll be better in the morning.


Thursday, January 3, 2008

Soup for the soul ...

Today was a day of a lot of work and no play. The light outside slowly dimming away this evening made me even more stressed as I realized the day was ending and my to-do list was only half done.

A knock on the door ... who could it be? Should I be frustrated at the interruption or thankful for the break? It was my wonderful neighbors dropping off a pitcher of homemade chicken noodle soup, crackers and grapefruit. What a way to warm my freezing fingers and also my heart.


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

So U Think U Can Sew?

Walking downtown today while running some errands I got drawn into a store on 5th that sells nothing but yarn and thread. Kind of unusual for someone like me who doesn't sew or knit. But this little place was so ... European. It reminded me of how in Paris and Rome each little shop sold it's own wares ... a shop for cheese, a shop for meat, a shop for fabrics, a shop for paper, etc. It's the anti-supermarket. Hard to find in today's fast-paced convenience driven culture. I guess that's what makes it extremely charming and much more fun.

All the different colors and textures inspired a little creative bug inside me that said, "yes, I CAN make that cool handbag example in the window." Wish I could bottle up that little boost of creative spirit because I really can't even make toast.

I bought two little balls of cotton yarn in neutral colors with flecks of oranges, browns and blacks. My grandmother makes me these fabulous dish cloths. I think it's about time I take the opportunity to have her teach me how to make them.


Starting the year off right..

What better way to kick off a new year than with a 5 course Italian dinner paired with fabulous Italian wines? That is exactly what we did along with several of our friends and scores of others lucky enough to have a reservation at the 5th Avenue Cafe for their annual New Years wine tasting dinner. 5th Avenue Cafe proprietor and host Leigh Love along with Chef Jesse Thomas and staff treated us to a fine dining experience that will only be surpassed by next years event!

The evening commenced around 9:00pm with a generous pour of sparkling Prosecco to welcome us. Live entertainment and a super charged atmosphere led to laughter and good times the entire evening. All of this with the backdrop of over 2 million holiday lights in Donnelly Park from the annual "Light Up Mount Dora" festival to add to the ambiance. The arrival of the new year at midnight was almost anticlimactic!

The first course of the evening was Prawn Pizazz, a dish of seasoned timbale of fresh prawn with watercress and apricot scented creme anglaise, which lived up to it's name in every respect paired with the Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Veneto (N/V)-Frizante.

This was followed by the second course of Proscutto slices with fresh melon, aged Parmesan cheese, garnished with asparagus foam in a dish known as Antipasti d' Amore. The wine pairing was a lovely Tenuta Guada al Tasso Vermintino, Bholgeri DOC (2005).

The third course of Pasta with Panache was gnocchi made of hand rolled classic potato dumplings, served in a bed of fontina and asiago cheeses with tomato coulis which received immediate accolades from everyone around the room. The dish was paired with a Badia a Pasignano Riserva, Chianti Classico DOCG (2001).

The fourth course and main entree was a choice of Tantalizing Tail or Festive Fillet. The Petite filet migon was accompanied with porcini ravioli, fresh asparagus spears, finished with a black truffle creme fraiche. The lobster tail was served with truffle infused risotto and finished with roasted cherry ragout. Both entrees were paired with an utterly magnificent Marchesi di Barolo, Barbaresco Piedmont DOCG (2003), often called the king of Italian wines according to Craig Bissell who was the featured wine speaker for the evening.

Last but not least the evening was topped off with a desert consisting of white chocolate tiramisu trifle with poached pears, and fresh raspberries. The wine pairing was the fruity and sparkling Marenco Brachetto d' Acqui, Piedmont (2006)

I would recommend you reserve your seat early for next year's event!


Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Welcome 2008!

The new year always brings on strange mix of nostalgia, reminiscing and the excitement of starting new. I think as we plan ahead, it's only natural to look back to what brought us to this moment.

One of my annual year-end traditions is to write out my new year's goals and to re-organize and clean out all my old files to make room for the new. I usually find old notes, photos, daily planning lists, etc. During that process this past month I found an old college assignment that I just couldn't part with. It was brief story for a creative writing assignment I wrote in November of 1999. It read ...
Does the harsh coldness of the city ever make you want to snuggle up to the warm hospitality of a small town? Do you picture an old-fashioned town with cobblestone streets, quaint shops and a neighborly smile on every passerby? There is such a place to escape to ...
That place is Mount Dora. And now, almost 10 years later, I live here. Wow.

I believe that how you spend your New Year's Eve is what sets the tone for how the rest of your year is going to be. And if last night was any indicator, it's going to be a year of happiness, laughter, great wine, and more good times and memories made with family & friends. And of course, success. Right now I've got the song Little Wonders playing on my computer and the lyrics couldn't be more perfect:

Our lives are made in these small hours, these little wonders, these twists & turns of fate. Time falls away, but these small hours, these small hours still remain .