My sister & I met in Winter Park yesterday for a walking food tour.  I had done one in New York years ago and it was a lot of fun, so we decided to check out what Orlando Food Tours had to offer.  We met our guide, Kiel, and the other ladies in the tour outside of Prato on Park Avenue at 11:30am to start our 3 hour tour.

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Prato is a modern rustic Italian bistro.  They weren’t too busy at 11:30am, but it sounds like you need reservations if you want to get in there for dinner.  There was bread & dipping oil on the table and we all dug in while our pizzas were in the oven.

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The bread was fresh and had an almost spongy texture which was perfect for sopping up the oil.  I was a little surprised that there weren’t an herbs in the oil.  Then the pizzas arrive.  First to the table was the Fiorentina.

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It had spinach, prosciutto, and fontina cheese.  All of the ingredients tasted very fresh and were very fragrant.  There was something in this dish though that tingled my tongue.  I don’t know if it was the cheese or the prosciutto, but there was a little spiciness there that I wasn’t expecting.  The second pizza was the “Widowmaker”.

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This one had caciocavallo cheese, a rustic tomato sauce, fennel sausage and an egg cooked right in the middle.  I loved the rustic tomato sauce.  It was so fresh and flavorful.  We took the middle piece with the egg, split it open & passed it around the table for everyone to taste.  The funniest thing was watching everyone trying to cut the slices from the pizza.  Our knives just couldn’t make clean work out of the crust.

Prato on Urbanspoon

Now that we all had our pizza fix, we walked over to Ancient Olive for our next tasting.  We were all a little hesitant at first because I don’t think any of us ever put much thought into olive oil or balsamic vinegar and certainly never went out of our way to taste different ones.  This tasting shop had an amazing selection of different combinations and flavors.

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James was our expert in the shop and he told us more than you ever knew existed about olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  We tasted two oils and learned that you taste the same way you would wine.  You take it in your mouth, breathe in a slurping sort of gulp of air and then breathe out your nose.  It was quite a sensation.  You could taste grassy or peppery notes in the oil.  He also said something to the affect of what you get in the grocery store is pretty much akin to lamp oil since its polyphenol levels  have degraded over time.  James also has one of those English accents where he could have been reading the phone book and we’d have listened to him for hours. This was by far the most interesting stop on the tour.  The shop is a tasting shop, so you can go in at any time and taste the different olive oils and balsamic vinegars.  James was a phenomenal host with a lot of knowledge to share.  They also have some other locally sourced products such as jams, honey, drink mixes and a bunch of other stuff.  We got to taste one of the black tomato jams over goat cheese, some locally spiced pickles and a local sourced margarita mix.

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The jam was really tasty.  Lots of flavors that blended wonderfully with the goat cheese.  It would be perfect over toast points or pita chips.  Yum!  The pickles were really spicy to me.  I tasted a couple of the other oils and was just amazed at the difference between these fresh oils and balsamic vinegars compared to what I’ve had my entire life.  There just is no comparison.

The Ancient Olive on Urbanspoon

After the Ancient Olive, we took a little walk through Winter Park and Kiel told us some of the history of the buildings.  We stopped outside of Casa Feliz which has an interesting history.

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This isn’t where the house was originally built.  Someone had bought the property and planned to demolish the home.  The city and a “friends” group managed to raise the funds to save the home and relocate it in its entirety to its current location.  It went through a restoration and can now be rented out for functions.  We walked back by and learned about the Morse museum and then headed into the Spice & Tea Exchange for our next food stop.

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This stop had some spicy hummus, which I didn’t try, but my sister really liked, a freshly brewed iced tea, and some blackberry salted caramel brownies that were divine.  I got a recipe card for those and plan to make them soon.  The shop has a large selection of spices and teas.

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There were things that I’ve only seen and heard of on the Food Network or in cookbooks and they were all there in the shop.  This shop as well as the others all had fantastic aromas as you walk in the door.

The Spice & Tea Exchange on Urbanspoon

We then walked next door to Orchid Thai Cuisine.  This was my favorite food stop.

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At this stop, we had chicken satay that had a peanut sauce with a strong lemongrass flavor that I really liked.  The chicken was tender, though it did not want to easily come off of the skewers.  We also had a sampler with spring rolls, dumplings, curry puffs, and golden purses which are similar to crab rangoons.  Everything we tried was fresh and flavorful.  The golden purses were the biggest hit at the table.

Orchid Thai Cuisine on Urbanspoon

We took a quick walk over to Central Park where we saw the last remnant of the original train station, then it was off to Kilwin’s for some dessert.  I got the impression that the staff forgot we were coming, but they quickly scooped out our sample of turtle fudge and ice cream.

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Kilwin’s has a nice selection of chocolates, fudge, caramel apples and ice cream.   The fudge and ice cream were good, but I think I would have preferred to taste one of their caramel apples.  Kiel said when there are at least 8 in the tour group, that’s what they sample.

Kilwins on Urbanspoon

Our last stop on the tour was Sassafras Sweet Shoppe where we got cotton candy.

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This is our tour guide Kiel before he handed over the sweet, sticky, strands of sugar.  I felt like this was a throw away stop on the tour.  The candy shop had some interesting vintage candy, but there’s nothing terribly interesting or food worthy about cotton candy.  For both Kilwin’s and Sassafras Sweet Shop, no one from the shop interacted with us.  What makes a tour interesting is the stories behind the locations and the food.

Sassafras Sweet Shoppe on Urbanspoon

Overall, though, we all really enjoyed the tour.  James & the Ancient Olive was the most interesting stop since he really engaged with the group.  I liked the food at Orchid Thai the best.  I’d definitely recommend taking the tour if you’ve got a few hours to spend walking around Winter Park.

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