Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Florida - Lagasse Style

This past Sunday I watched the premier of a new Cooking Channel show, Emeril's Florida. The Big E was in the Orlando area touring some really fabulous new places in Winter Park. I say new, because many of them didn't exist a few years ago when my bride and I took a train ride over to the Park. After watching this segment of the show, it appears another trip to Winter Park is in order.

As the show progressed, Emeril headed over to Orlando, and except for "his" restaurants in the theme parks, it became apparent that a visit to Orlando's venues might be worth a death defying trip on I-4. Who knew that Orlando might possibly not be in the gastronomic arm pit of Florida.

The city is also home to the largest permanent ICEBAR in the world. Patrons are provided with cold weather gear at the door but, if memory serves correctly, you are allowed only 20 minutes at a time in their 27 degree Fahrenheit bar.

This coming Sunday, January 13, Chef Lagasse will be in the Panhandle. The episode I am really looking forward to is Viva Florida 500 airing January 20. This is Florida's celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Spanish explorers' arrival on the east coast.

Chef Michael Lugo of The Tasting Room in St. Augustine prepares Emeril a classic Spanish meal. Emeril then travels to Pensacola, where executive chef Irv Miller of Jackson's Steakhouse prepares him a variety of dishes. Afterwards, in Tampa, he makes paella with Andrea Gonzmart of the Columbia Restaurant.

Be still, my thumping gizzard, for I can hardly wait to see the paella preparation at the Columbia. I had the Columbia's paella once - and to paraphrase the late Ambrose Bierce, "Once was more than enough". That was without question the worst paella I have ever had the misfortune of trying to eat.

It will be interesting to see if Gonzmart prepares the same crappy paella for Emeril, or just maybe Emeril can show the Columbia how it's done.

Editor's Update 1/20/2013: I watched this episode at the Columbia. The paella that Andrea prepared and the one served to me "might" have been the same recipe as long as you plate the paella, place it in the refrigerator for several hours (or days), then take it out and nuke it before serving.

Finally, Emeril visits the Kennedy Space Station, and learns about the NASA Space Program from Colonel Rick Searfoss.

Here is the full schedule of upcoming shows (click to see details):

South Walton Beaches
Viva Florida
Emeril's Florida Tailgate Challenge
Florida Agriculture #1

I hope this series is a success and is renewed for another season, because it just barely scratches the surface of the mouth watering delicacies that are available to the Florida diner who wanders away from the chains.

It's also a pleasure to see Florida depicted in a positive light for a change, and not as just a state with drooling, gun-toting Neanderthals. And, my apologies to any surviving Neanderthals for equating you with these bozos.

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