Where to Eat on Christmas in Orlando 2017

Loads of Orlando restaurants are opening their doors on Christmas Eve and Christmas so you can celebrate without a bit of work. Others will prepare food in advance that you can heat and eat once at home on the big day. Here are our favorites.

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Five Gifts for a Practical Woman

Plenty of women like frivolities as gifts, but often the holidays call for practicality -- items that we'll actually use yet wouldn't buy for ourselves. Here are five gift ideas that will bring wrapping-paper joy to the no-nonsense recipient on your list.

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Miracle on Orange: The Courtesy Bar Gets in the Holiday Spirit

As the holiday season gets underway, downtown Orlando's The Courtesy Bar has taken on a new identity. Under the sub-name Miracle on Orange, the craft cocktail lounge is using recipes, barware and other items from a global Miracle promotion.

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Where to Eat on Thanksgiving in Orlando 2017

Here are five great places to eat on Thanksgiving in Orlando 2017. I'll be sharing this info on Orlando's Fox 35 about 9:45 on Sunday morning, so please tune in.

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Refreshing - Great Food at Disney's Wilderness Lodge

From bar snacks to fine dining, you'll find great food at Disney's Wilderness Lodge.

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Now That's a New York Slice - Pizzeria Roberti Orlando

I think I found it this time -- a really good slice of New York style pizza. It's at Pizzeria Roberti.

Details >>

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Orlando Weekend Jaunt: Hammock Beach Resort

Fully 50 percent of Hammock Beach Resort's summer visitors are from the Orlando area about 90 minutes south. So who was I turn down a night's stay and a seven-course dinner? Here's what I found.

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Delicious Disney: Disney's Kinda Sorta Secret Gourmet Society

You can join Delicious Disney. Simply sign up. It's new, and it's ambitious, and it involves eating extraordinarily well at Disney World. Let me explain.

Ratatouille with braised cabbage and roasted tomato sauce

Ratatouille with braised cabbage and roasted tomato sauce

A few months ago, Disney World's top chefs – the heads of the signature restaurants and the bigwigs in the Flavor Lab – put together Delicious Disney, A Chef Series. The goal: to bring guests who are at once Disney and food enthusiasts together with the kitchen artists behind Lake Buena Vista's most noteworthy meals.

Miso-torched hamachi, maguro and pea-avocado mousse with tsukemono

Miso-torched hamachi, maguro and pea-avocado mousse with tsukemono

Delicious Disney is tricky to find. The program does not have an official Web page. It has been mentioned on the official Disney blog, but other than that only Golden Oak residents and Tables in Wonderland members receive notifications. Attend once, though, and you'll be added to the email list. (Tables in Wonderland is a food-focused Disney dining discount program.)

Meyer lemon-olive oil cake with hibiscus sorbet and vanilla-infused stone fruits

Meyer lemon-olive oil cake with hibiscus sorbet and vanilla-infused stone fruits

For Delicious Disney, each meal has a theme, and each dish is tied to an element of that theme. The series kicked off in 2016 and has several events so far in 2017.  I was lucky enough to participate in Walk Around the World with Disney. Here's how it played out.

Slow-smoked short rib and char-grilled sirloin with watercress and watermelon foam

Slow-smoked short rib and char-grilled sirloin with watercress and watermelon foam

This Delicious Disney dinner was held in the warm and elegant Markham's Restaurant, the exclusive eatery in the private Summerhouse clubhouse at Golden Oak, a high-end residential community located on Disney property. The evening began with a signature cocktail plus pass-around hors d'oeuvres that were upscale twists on theme park foods. For example, a corn dog on a stick, like those sold on Disneyland's Main Street, were here made with a fine German sausage in a natural casing. It was an ironic twist in a room filled with gentlemen wearing jackets and ladies in cocktail dresses.

Master sommelier Brian Koziol sharing insights on wine

Master sommelier Brian Koziol sharing insights on wine

Promptly at 7, guests were escorted into the main dining room. The room is a lovely space with vaulted brick ceilings, tufted red leather banquettes and classic lamps, all in view of the open kitchen. A long rectangular menu was at each seat. One one side, the menu showed the Disney castles around the world featured with each course. On the flip side was each of the seven menu items tied to the castle. The wines paired to each course were written out too.

The menu with castles l-r of Shanghai, Hong Kong, Paris, Tokyo, Disney World and California

The menu with castles l-r of Shanghai, Hong Kong, Paris, Tokyo, Disney World and California

As each course was served, a chef described it in detail. Then Master Sommelier Brian Koziol talked about each wine. The chefs and Koziol also visited with tables throughout the meal.

Menu specifics, each matched to a Disney park

Menu specifics, each matched to a Disney park

Seven courses later, guests received one final gift: the same colorful, informative menu again, this time signed by each of the chefs above castle representing the course he or she created.

Shanghainese dumpling

Shanghainese dumpling

Two more Delicious Disney events are on the calendar for 2017: A Culinary Tribute to Mickey Mouse's Birthday at the Contemporary Resort's California Grill (November 18); and a Farm-to-Table repast on a tree farm (December 6; a few seats left). The meals are not inexpensive: Prices range from $199 to $499 per person, per event. These are legitimately what you'd call gourmet dinners though. They're prepared by experienced chefs, made with luxury foods, and paired with exquisite wines. And, the groups are intimate, with no more than 60 diners total.

For food details on my meals, hover your curser over each photo for descriptions.

Szechuan pepper-crusted squab breast with congee, chilies and yu choy

Szechuan pepper-crusted squab breast with congee, chilies and yu choy

If you'd like to join either of the last two 2017 Delicious Disney dinners, call 407-939-5773 between 9am and 5pm to make a reservation. I'm told these fill up quickly, so don't dally.

Another play on California Disneyland food: churro with Mexican chocolate sauce served squeeze-it-yourself style and planted in a cork

Another play on California Disneyland food: churro with Mexican chocolate sauce served squeeze-it-yourself style and planted in a cork

If you can't make it this year, stay tuned. The Delicious Disney chefs are already buzzing with ideas for a Star Wars-themed dinner when the space-themed land debuts at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2018. Let's hope the Delicious Disney, A Chef Series stays around that long, because a Star Wars-themed dinner would be out of this world.

Purple Cocktails and Chilled Curry-Cauliflower Soup: DoveCote Magical Dining Month 2017

Try the DoveCote Magical Dining Menu 2017 for $35. What a value!

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Asian Street Food in Orlando: Hawkers Crispy Chicken Skin Skewers

Crispy Chicken Skin Skewers, and other culinary adventures from Hawkers new menu.

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Game of Thrones, for Real: See African Tribal Art at Bronze Kingdom

Thrones and slaves, weapons and stories -- you'll see an astounding collection of African tribal art at Bronze Kingdom.

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Exceptional Expeditions – Take a Giraffe Ranch Segway Safari

Talk about fun in the Florida sun. I just took a Giraffe Ranch Segway safari. What a fun way to spend the day.

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Need Space? Try The Grove Resort and Spa Orlando

Now that my kids are grown, I seek out family lodging options with a residential layout. That way we can make our own little breakfasts, play Bananagrams at the kitchen table and watch movies in the living room. Now The Grove Resort & Spa Orlando offers that option -- plus it will soon have a water park.

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The IV Lounge Infuses Guests with Energy -- and Also Rejuvenates Ladyparts

I'm sitting in a doctor's office-like chair, eyebrows up in skepticism, as a nurse with a healthful glow finds my vein and sets me up for an intravenous infusion of nutrients. I'm at the IV Lounge Orlando, concerned. Is this a medical facility? A scam? A blessing-to-be?

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The Polite Pig Ups the Food Game at Disney Springs

Maybe it was a fellow foodie's disappointed Facebook posts. Possibly,  sheer pragmatism. But with Orlando's Swine Family restaurant group expanded so quickly in recent months, I couldn't imagine that its new restaurant, The Polite Pig, could be extraordinary.

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Dine Alfresco with All-Star Female Florida Chefs

Orlando has so many food events that I post about only a fraction, and of those only a few turn to to be spectacular in terms of food, drink and ambiance. I am betting that Women in the Kitchen: A Celebration at Lake Meadow will make the cut.

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Tour the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace

About a fourth of my work involves this: telling readers how to get the most for their money in Orlando. One of the always-valid tips involves choosing hotels that are on Disney World property but owned by others. Today's feature: Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace.

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Lobster Tail Frittata, and Other Orlando Easter Brunch Meals

See this? It's twin, shelled, baby, butter-poached lobster tails nestled onto a delicate egg frittata, which itself is atop crispy hash browns. A pitcher of truffle Hollandaise sauce stands on the side. This exceptionally delicious dish is one of the Orlando Easter brunch meals on offer at Capital Grille  for the holiday on Sunday, April 16.

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