In September, I got a chance to visit Orlando, Fla., with a group of journalists and see what the area has to offer. I ate tons of delicious food there, but two fun, food-oriented stops really stood out. Mainly because they involve two things that are my food equivalent of Kryptonite: wine and chocolate.
First stop: Farris & Foster's Fine Chocolates
This cute little store is a regular chocolate shop in front. But look behind the counter and you'll discover Party Central. The store's chocolate-making parties – for every occasion from date night to corporate team building – are a bit like Disco Night at your local pub. First, you get a quick lesson in chocolate making from the affable owner Foster and his lovely wife, Teri. They teach you how to dip, drizzle, mould and enrobe your favourite fillings in dark, milk or white chocolate. Then they crank up the dance tunes – and dim the lights if it's date night – and you're off to the races, creating all the mouth-watering chocolates you can cram into a container to take home. [caption id="attachment_2909" align="aligncenter" width="267" caption="Foster showing us how to pipe chocolate into a candy cup"]
[/caption] From pretzels and chips to candies and nuts, there's every kind of filling imaginable. The only limit is your imagination – or perhaps the capacity of your stomach. [caption id="attachment_2905" align="aligncenter" width="322" caption="Chocolate shells to fill"]
[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2904" align="aligncenter" width="314" caption="Mmmmmm, candy!"]
[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2912" align="aligncenter" width="262" caption="Nuts and dried fruit"]
[/caption] The most fun is tossing items onto the belt of the enrobing machine. There's nothing better than watching a Nutter Butter or a giant salty pretzel take a bath in warm milk chocolate. Yum. [caption id="attachment_2908" align="aligncenter" width="307" caption="The enrobing machine in action"]
[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2915" align="aligncenter" width="326" caption="The scrumptious results of my chocolate-making adventure"]
Second Stop: The Wine Room
Just outside Orlando, on Park Avenue in Winter Park, you'll find a nice assortment of shops catering to all the needs of the carefree yuppie. Cute cafés, cigar stores, spice shops and boutiques line the street. Whether you want a drink, upscale makeup or a handmade recycled-newspaper basket, there's a store that carries what you're looking for. The Wine Room is perched halfway down Park Ave., beckoning customers in with a great selection of wine and an interesting premise: try before you buy. [caption id="attachment_2941" align="aligncenter" width="346" caption="A large selection of wines greets you right inside the front door"]
Tucked in among the thousands of bottles for sale are wine-serving machines called Enomatics.
[caption id="attachment_2933" align="aligncenter" width="293" caption="French reds, ready for sampling"]
To taste, you buy a smart card loaded with a certain amount of money and insert it into the machine. You can choose just a taste, a half-pour or a full pour of any variety in the dispenser. The open bottles stay fresh because they're surrounded by inert nitrogen gas, which prevents oxygen from ruining the flavour of the wine.
My verdict: Brilliant! With my $10 smart card, I sampled 6 different wines – and didn't have so much that I ended up singing karaoke. That's always a win.
If you're in the mood to spend a bundle, there's always the Rare Room. I ducked inside for a look and found myself surrounded by pricey bottles from around the world. The best one? A Screaming Eagle Cabernet from Napa Valley that was going for a cool $2,500. Not on a journalist's salary!
[caption id="attachment_2938" align="aligncenter" width="314" caption="A 97 on the Parker scale still isn't enough for me to drop $2,500 on a single bottle of Cab."]
[/caption] ... Thanks to the folks at Visit Orlando for arranging my trip. For more info on visiting the area and planning a trip, click on the
. Are you planning on escaping the winter blues in Florida this year?