With so many great local chefs pushing the culinary envelope throughout Orlando’s blossoming downtown districts and suburban neighborhoods, it’s easy to forget that Central Florida hotels add a bounty of epicurean offerings. This fall, several resorts unveil new restaurants and culinary adventures sure to tempt you for dinner or a weekend getaway.
Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort
This August, The Four Seasons Resort unveiled its Orlando property tucked into a lush corner of Walt Disney World Resort. In addition to a 5-acre water park, guest rooms with views of Disney fireworks and complimentary transportation to all of the Disney theme parks, the luxury locale debuts five restaurants.
Executive Chef Fabrizio Schenardi is at the helm, and you can see the influence of his Mediterranean roots, especially at Capa, the 17th-floor rooftop steakhouse and bar with Spanish cuisine and aesthetic. This dinner-only restaurant features an open kitchen, wood-burning grill and outdoor terrace with views of the nightly fireworks. Capa opens September 1.
For all-day dining, Ravello offers everything from an omelet station at breakfast to Italian-style entrées, including pizza and pastas, for dinner. A Disney character breakfast, “Good Morning Breakfast with Goofy and his Pals,” is offered twice weekly.
Insider Tip: Four Seasons is offering a Third Night Free promotion through December 19, as well as a special Florida resident rate of $279/night through October 9.
The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes
Highball & Harvest (H&H), a farm-to-fork meets craft cocktails concept, takes over the space previously occupied by the Ritz’s Vineyard Grill. Casual and interactive, H&H features seasonal Lowcountry and Cajun-inspired cuisine from Southern-raised Chef de Cuisine Mark Jeffers, who bolsters the fare with ingredients from local farms and Whisper Creek Farm, the resort’s 13,000-square-foot garden and event space. Highlights include communal seating, a large bar and lounge area, a raw oyster bar and an interactive cocktail table where bar chefs invite guests to study the inner workings of H&H’s signature cocktails. Special touches include hand-carved ice, honey from the Grande Lakes apiary and herbs and citrus from Whisper Creek Farm.
Later this year, JW Marriott Orlando opens The Kitchen, where small plates and charcuterie aim to pair perfectly with beer from the JW Marriott’s soon-to-launch nano brewery. Executive Chef Chris Brown is the mastermind behind this new concept, which will feature a Himalayan salt-walled curing room displaying all of the menu’s house-cured meats.
Insider Tip: Guests of the resort receive two free hours for two kids (ages 4 to 12) at Ritz Kids daily, included in the resort fee. Open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., this little perk translates into a quiet dinner date night for Mom and Dad.
Hyatt Regency Orlando
Formerly The Peabody, the towering Hyatt adjacent to the Orange County Convention Center has fine-tuned its culinary offerings, including name changes, menu upgrades and the addition of Executive Chef Larry Eells, who transferred from Grand Hyatt San Antonio, Texas.
Capriccio Grill is now Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse, and while the theme remains, new entrées, such as yellowtail snapper and chocolate pappardelle, bring fresh flavors. Napa, which will receive a name change by the end of 2014, still has farm-to-table leanings and has added new entrées such as Florida grouper to its menu.
Hyatt Regency Orlando now features its “For Kids By Kids” menus, launched earlier this year to give families fun and healthful meal options. The interactive offerings, which include a three-course organic menu, were tested and approved by kids.
Insider Tip: The Hyatt continues its lineup of monthly wine dinners, with four or five courses paired with wine or craft beer on the first Friday of most months. Reservations are required, and attendees are offered a special room rate. Call (407) 345-4570 for reservations and to receive the special overnight rate.
At Siro Urban Italian Kitchen at the Orlando Marriott World Center, Chef de Cuisine Alexia Gawlak takes an Italian approach to simple, fresh ingredients and has added several lighter items to the menu, which will change seasonally in order to highlight local produce, meats and seafood.
B Resort in Walt Disney World unveiled a massive, multimillion-dollar makeover earlier this year, which includes American Q restaurant, a barbecue concept developed with Jeffrey Chodorow of China Grill and Asia de Cuba. Opening is set for fall, and the casual breakfast and dinner eatery showcases a huge array of barbecue styles, from Memphis to Argentina, carved tableside or served on the buffet converted from the bed of a red 1950 Ford pickup truck.
Geoffrey Gable has taken over the position of Chef de Cuisine at deep blu seafood grille at the Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek. Gable has worked in 5-star establishments along the East Coast for more than a decade, and will infuse deep blu’s contemporary offerings with renewed creativity and an element of down-home authenticity.
Executive Chef Marc Kusche at Winter Park’s Alfond Inn is notching up the menu with new menu items like olive-oil poached red snapper and honey-glazed pork belly. He’s added a five-course chef’s tasting menu and private family-style suppers for up to 10 in the private dining room at Hamilton’s Kitchen. Look for a new Sunday brunch that will include a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar.
Hilton Orlando features a gastropub-style menu at David’s Club Bar & Grill and now offers dishes such as Tennessee hot buttermilk calamari, spiny lobster paella and a cinnamon ice cream panini. A handful of new cocktails has debuted, including the Florida Sun Shine made with fruit-infused moonshine, pureed strawberry and freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Emeril’s Tchoup Chop at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando Resort recently revamped its happy hour menu, which now features $4 to $5 appetizers including Crispy Kalua Chicken Egg Rolls and Tchoup Chop Crunchy Shrimp as well as wine, beer and cocktails priced from $4 to $6. Happy hour is every day from 5 to 8 p.m. either inside at the bar or outside at the Tiki Bar.
Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate launched the “Ingredient of the Month” program earlier this year, showcasing a different Florida ingredient each month on menus at David’s Club and Trevi’s. September spotlights snapper; in October, mangoes.