Hearty Winter Meals – Yes, Even in Orlando

If we can’t fuel up over a bowl of steamy, solid, soul-comforting foods in February, when can we?

These three restaurants do an especially good job with wintry entrees. I’d sure rather eat them without having to shovel snow first. Wouldn’t you?

Le Coq au Vin

With a classically French menu in a homey trio of dining rooms, Le Coq au Vin is an insider’s winter escape.

Chef-owner Raymond Pitz offers an antidote to shivers with a dish dubbed simply “Canard.” It’s essentially two types of duck — a leg confit crisp, and a breast roasted to rare with lavender and honey. Pears, cherries, a Kirsch flavored sauce and sweet-potato-parsnip pie share the plate.

Should that not appeal, opt for the boar chop, which appears regularly on the specials list. Hey, it’s a big pig! The 12-ounce chop is marinated, breaded, lightly roasted and plated with braised red cabbage, apples and dumplings.

For a stewier take on pork, order the braised pork shank. The meat is marinated in shallots, garlic and herbs before it’s cooked, then presented with spaetzle, a German noodle, and a truffle-red-wine reduction.

Se7en Bites

Se7evn Bites seems every bit Le Coq au Vin’s opposite: It’s tiny, airy, American and counter-service. Yet this bakery and restaurant, too, tends toward homey foods.

On a chilly winter day, stop in for a bowl of white chicken chili. White cannellini beans and white-meat chicken are the base. You’ll find a bit of spice along with cilantro, bell pepper and onion, plus cheddar cheese and a hunk of garlic-cheddar cornbread.

Chicken pot pie is a staple at Se7en bites, and it’s far more satisfying than those frozen ones of your childhood. Here, a homemade celery-seed crust is filled with chicken, carrots, peas, potatoes, celery, onion and thyme; the thyme adds a strong, unusual flavor. Oh! White wine-béchamel sauce ties it all together.

And then there’s the meatloaf sandwich. Two thick slices, with a glaze on top, sit between two slices of bread – along with a layer of mashed potatoes.

Not one food item tops $10.

The Crooked Spoon

I'm a sucker for a gastropub, especially one that has amazing burgers, french fries and potato chips. That sums up The Crooked Spoon for me.

The menu has far more, of course. When the temps dip low enough for us to dig out boots and sweaters, The Crooked Spoon dishes out better-than home-style favorites.

Just take a look at the macaroni and cheese. It's made gooey-yummy with six cheeses: provolone, Parmesan, Romano, mozzarella, gorgonzola and swiss. A little house-made bacon, plus red and yellow peppers, a sprinkle of toasted breadcrumbs ... . 

Want more meat than that? Meatloaf'll do the trick.This one's made with Angus beef, wrapped in bacon, and serve with herb-scented rice and seasonal vegetables.

Tempting, yes? Sorta makes you crave a drop into the ‘40s.

Eat enthusiastically,