June 21st, 2018 | By Helen Benefield Billings
Fine dining is most certainly alive and well at Grande Lakes Orlando.
A recent excursion to Florida to attend the wildly anticipated Jimmy Buffet and Eagles concert led us to the storied resorts of The Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott, Grande Lakes Orlando. Truly inspiring, both hotels create a destination distinguished by authentic, enriching, exquisite beauty and timeless charm. The two resorts are linked together by a grand hallway that houses a plethora of glamorous meeting spaces and ballrooms with luxurious features.
More than just a place to stay, these sparkling resorts came to life in the late ‘90s and continue to wow visitors from all walks of life and all budgets, with caring guest services, beautifully updated guest rooms, state-of-the-art golf, pool and spa facilities as well as memorable dining experiences.
Foremost on our list of “must do’s” was Friday night dinner at elegant Norman’s. The restaurant follows the Colonial Italian Palazzo-inspired design and is housed within The Ritz-Carlton, where James Beard Award-winning Chef Norman Van Aken presents a stirring fusion menu, impeccably featuring Latin and Asian dishes. An extensive global wine list and a knowledgeable sommelier added to our pleasure, as we inquired about several French whites that undoubtedly paired perfectly with fish and pork dishes being ordered.
The Bar at Norman’s is cozy and was our first stop before dinner. I couldn’t resist ordering the Albatross cocktail – delicious, perfectly fashioned and presented.
3 oz Tito’s Vodka
2 oz white cranberry juice
1 oz St. Germain liqueur
Mix ingredients together with ice in your favorite cocktail shaker. Strain into preferred glassware and garnish with ribbon cucumber.
Fast forward to Sunday evening, for comfort cuisine at its finest along with pleasing craft beers and an innovative cocktail menu, at Whisper Creek Farm: The Kitchen, at the JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes. Drawing ingredients from their on-site farm ensures the absolute freshest offerings available. We loved this casual dining concept that includes communal tables and a relaxed, masculine vibe.
THE BEEKEEPER by Whisper Creek Farm: The Kitchen
1 ½ oz Palm Ridge Whiskey
¾ oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 oz Whisper Creek Farm honey
Dash orange bitters
Shake with ice and strain over ice into a short glass.
Another great bar and restaurant to visit is Highball & Harvest at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando. It presents unique interpretations of new Southern cuisine including Shrimp & Grits, Fried Chicken and Deviled Eggs. All ingredients are sourced from the aforementioned on-site garden and local vendors, giving guests a true taste of the region.
Impressive selections of Florida/Georgia brews are showcased along with an exciting Signature Cocktails menu not to be missed. The Industrialist caught my eye and is featured below.
THE INDUSTRIALIST by Highball & Harvest
1 ½ oz Woodford Reserve Double Oaked
2 oz house-made honeysuckle Crème de Menthe
¼ oz Fernet Branca
3 mint leaves as garnish