Food & Drink - Staff Picks
Published: July 18, 2012
Middle East Market & Deli
8100 S. Orange Blossom Trail
If the sight of a rotating, dripping, juicy spit of mystery meat makes you weak in the knees, Middle East Market's version of shawarma, a Persian specialty sandwich, could cause an Arab Spring in your mouth. Choose from chicken or lamb; pile on the bright pink pickled turnips, hummus, cucumber and tomato; and let the warm pita take you away to a petroleum-rich food paradise far, far away.
Best messy meal
Melissa's Chicken & Waffles
The enormous waffle creations served from Melissa's bright-orange school bus can be a bit daunting. To enjoy, you must get over the realization that 1) some part of this meal will definitely trickle down your face and possibly onto your clothes; and 2) each of your bites will make you faintly resemble a velociraptor. Grab a few extra napkins and don't let it stop you – the sweet-and-salty, crisp-and-spicy, warm-and-hearty goodness that emanates from this food truck will make the slop factor worth it.
Best summer cocktail
Cetriolo at Prato
124 N. Park Ave., Winter Park
We hate to give away secret recipes (this one is actually printed on Prato's cocktail menu, we swear), but to appreciate this, you've got to hear the ingredients. The cetriolo combines organic cucumber vodka, agave nectar, lime, white cranberry juice and basil to create a refreshing, simple craft cocktail that'll offer a much-needed reprieve from the hot-and-sticky air outside. When sipped at Prato's rustically swank bartop, you'll feel refreshed and decadent.
Best nonalcoholic beer
Butterbeer at Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure
Harry and his classmates were merely tweens at the start of J.K. Rowling's series, so real booze was out of the question for them. But butterbeer, in all of its sugary-
sweet glory, was a suitably intoxicating alternative. Universal Orlando has concocted its own butterbeer, a sweet, frothy, frosty beverage with hints of butterscotch and cream soda. Dozens of recipe variants can be found on the Internet, some of which include real butter, but why bother with that when the stuff sold at Universal's Islands of Adventure is pretty much exactly what you would have imagined the drink described in the books to be?
Best Weed Eater
Food is everywhere in Orlando – in parks, in backyards, even in ditches – but the thing is, you need someone to teach you what to eat and what to avoid. Orlando's urban and suburban landscapes boast more delicious edible wild plants than some entire states do, and forager Deane Jordan, aka Green Deane, can help you find them. If you're a health nut, you'll love foraging because wild plants have a higher nutritional content than many veggies (both conventional and organic) found at the grocery store or co-op. If you're a dumpster-diving freegan, you'll love the nonexistent cost. And if you're a foodie, you'll find yourself squarely in the middle of the foraged-food trend made popular by restaurants such as Noma in Copenhagen. While we don't suggest you eat any old weed you come upon (see "Backyard buffet," March 22), we know once you try your first safely prepared meal from a ditch, you'll be hooked.